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The Power of Stories and Visual Models in the Teaching of Mathematics

Jon will open this session with a discussion of the value of using literature to teach mathematics in the early years. He will provide a few examples from his classroom experiences with young children. The link between this classroom practice and the goals of the STEM movement will be addressed. Stuart will take you on a journey through the world of literature and math and show you how together they can create a path to success. This session will explore how stories about the kinds of things that interest children – taking care of a pet, playing a sport, going on vacation, visiting a mall or an amusement park – can engage students and make math relevant to their lives. Visual learning will be defined and the power of visual learning strategies as teaching tools will be addressed. Stuart will read from his books and discuss the relationship between the contextual learning that takes place within his stories and the visual learning contained in the illustrations and models. He will reinforce the importance of developing strong mathematics skills in all young learners. Stuart will talk about how math educators can work together to help young students develop positive and productive dispositions toward mathematics. For our children to be successful in mathematics, teachers must infuse “can do” and “can’t wait to do” attitudes into their every day math practices. Information will be provided on how to effectively use creative approaches to interpret and evaluate mathematical information, develop comprehension and reasoning skills, draw conclusions, make connections to other areas of learning, and gain new understandings regarding the application of math concepts to real world situations. Examples will be shown of how students can benefit from participating in activities about math. Ideas will be considered for encouraging students to sketch, talk, write, and otherwise communicate about math. This presentation will demonstrate how creative expression can help students gain broader understandings about mathematical concepts. Time will be allocated for questions and answers. Let’s work together to assure that our students are motivated – truly excited – about math.



Stuart J. Murphy is a Boston-based children’s book author and visual learning strategist. He is the author of the award-winning MathStart series, which includes a total of 63 children’s books that present mathematical concepts in the context of stories for Pre-K through Grade 4. He is also the author of Stuart J. Murphy’s I SEE I LEARN, a 16-book series of storybooks for children in Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 that focus on social, emotional, health and safety, and cognitive skills. Stuart is on the authorship team of a number of mathematics programs published by Pearson Education, including enVisionMATH, and he is a frequent presenter at educational conferences, including the National Councils of Supervisors and Teachers of Mathematics (NCSM/NCTM). Most of all, Stuart is an advocate of helping our children develop their visual learning skills so that they become more successful students.

Stuart J. Murphy

Jon is the Director of STEM Education for the Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. He works with teachers and administrators to build programs that promote a worthwhile and optimistic view of math and science. He has worked in preschools, TK-12 schools and at the secondary level. Jon enjoys talking about numbers with young children. 

Jon Dueck.jpg

Jonathan Dueck

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