Math and narrative

Posted on May 3, 2010

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We’ve all heard people say “people will learn math better if it relates to real life.”  There is, I suspect, a whopping assumption that most people kinda sorta mean the same thing when they say that.  Hmmm… in the 8 minutes I have left, I can’t go there yet, because the question that burbled through the mental humus and compost like thsoe asparagus shoots this week is:  what is the role of “narrative” in learnign math?  The Algebra Project talks about it — having story and talk … *NOT* just translation of applications of math to more familiar English.  Making Math Real is *full* of it.  I think this is a Little Shameful Secret … that often people successfully bridge the gap to the abstract concepts of math through shockingly imperfect metaphors and models.  Perhaps if they’re horribly imperfect the transition is better, since you have to leave the metaphor behind earlier (as opposed to the more prevalent overgeneralizations like “plus means add” and “multiplying makes things bigger”). So.  Since I couldn’t find my personal copy, I’ve got a coyp of Radical Equations (abotu the Algebra Project), tho’ I am pretty sure it was something online that talked about the role of narrative in the instruction there.  Then I’m gonna scope out some of the other noted interventions and see what happens tehre.

I *know* that when my math teachers made up stories, it helped us remember new stuff.  I’ve forgotten most of the stories… yea, “transitive” property was the same as saying “John loves Mary, Mary loves Bill, therefore Bill loves John,” which went over with much jocularity in the early 70’s.

More to come…

Posted in: math