I love mathematics. I’m not sure how many librarians would agree with me, and I often notice that we overlook math teachers in our collaboration efforts. I was surprised one year when my principal asked me, as the school librarian, to focus my efforts on third grade math. She also provided me with the suggestion that I send a word problem to the class ahead of their visit to the library to generate curiosity about what we would be doing in the library. Our school had a mathematics focus that year for professional development and I attended with the teachers. At one of those sessions, the facilitator suggested that students write their own word problems and he offered this familiar framework from language arts: character, setting, problem. The proverbial lightbulb went off for me – here was my hook. I could take the characters and setting from a picture book and write a math word problem that related somehow to the problem in the book.
I wrote the word problem on chart paper and sent it to the classroom ahead of their library visit. Students brought their work to the library and I opened the lesson with a discussion about strategies to solve the problem. “I don’t want to know the answer, I want to talk about how you got the answer.” The discussions and activities that followed exemplified much of the second of the Standards for the 21st-Century Learner: 2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful; 2.2.2 Use both divergent and convergent thinking to formulate alternative conclusions and test them against the evidence; 2.3.1 Connect understanding to the real world; and 2.4.2 Reflect on systematic process and assess for completeness of investigation. I was often surprised when I asked students to explain their work by the kinds of divergent thinking that emerged. Often students surprised me with valid methods that I had not thought about. I learned from them, and mathematics became an exciting and collaborative area of exploration for all of us.
AASL has a crosswalk with the Common Core mathematics standards and the Standards for the 21st Century Learner. I would argue that anywhere in the Common Core standards where you see “real world,” there’s a place for the librarian to build a connection with the mathematics in the classroom and the kinds of real world problems encountered in both fiction and informational texts.
When the learner is expected to organize or share their work, these are key information and communication skills found in the library skills domain. We certainly see in the current interest in infographics the need for graphs and tables to visually present statistical information. Mathematicians and statisticians must be able to communicate their work to others. Librarians have also realized the importance of presenting data about our programs and our impact on our learning communities in a graphic and engaging manner. In a recent VOYA article, Ryan Ireland shares how Greene County Public Library published their annual statistics as a graphic novel. The final product can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/greenecountycomic
Check out the article: Ireland, Ryan (2013). Get graphic with stats. VOYA 36 (3) 38-9.
The AASL Crosswalk with the Mathematics Common Core standards can be found at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/commoncorecrosswalk/math