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Math Stories Make Math Make Sense

Preschool and early elementary curricula are designed as multiple subject classes, taught separately. In math, we teach numbers and operations. In reading, we explore the plot, characters, setting, and vocabulary. In writing, we practice grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

In the real world, math, reading, and writing intersect. In his book titled "The Medici Effect," Johansson (2004) reasons how the intersection of industries, cultures, and disciplines, result in innovations. In a single field, ideas are directional and predictable. But when fields intersect, there are new fields and ideas, surprising and fascinating, taking leaps in new directions, opening new fields, and can affect the world in unprecedented ways.

This is a study on how math stories, represent the intersections of subjects, humanize math learning. Likened to a rainforest, math stories present unstructured and open-ended problems with the same elements-- plot, characters, setting, and vocabulary. Except in the stories used in this study, the plot is fueled by big math ideas. The characters require help with mathematical sense-making and reasoning to solve their problems. The setting is in a town called Whatever, where, like the world we live in, people can’t do math. Vocabulary describes math concepts. Words differentiate between conflicting math ideas, like equal or not equal.

Learn how math stories elevate engagement and mathematical thinking in these 1st grade math classes.

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Gigi Carunungan.png

Gigi Carunungan

Gigi is co-founder and led the foundational learning designs of 2 Silicon Valley K-8 schools--- Synapse School (Menlo Park) and Imagination School (Palo Alto). She wrote the Helical Model, a deep-dive learning strategy, integrating the constructivist philosophy and the learning sciences in thematic learning curricula for K-8.

She was the CEO of Young Outliers, a summer program, with participants from more than 30 schools. She wrote the curricula and led professional development for design science; design world; music writing, composition, and performance; creative writing; and coding camps for ages 7-12 years, and a teen digital entrepreneurship program.

She was Chief Learning Architect for Playnovate, a STEAM learning company for children ages 5-12. The company produces STEAM learning kits with creative hands-on simulations of real-world experiments and engineering projects bundled with interactive presentations and teachers’ training in NGSS-aligned courses.

In 2017-2019, Gigi assisted in educational programming and provided professional development for teachers in K-8 schools in Guatemala, where the idea of math stories as pedagogy for teaching mathematical sense-making and reasoning started. She is the author of Digital Media in the Classroom. She is the CEO of MathXplorers, author of 4 math picture books, and adjunct instructor at San Jose State University’s Teacher Education Department. Gigi has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

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