Storytelling has captured imaginations since the beginning of time. Using stories to enrich mathematics learning is not a new idea, and educators have been using stories as a stimulus for Maths work, particularly with younger children, for generations. But mathematical stories can be beneficial for learners of all ages, and digital storytelling is an interesting element of storytelling that is perfect for the 21st century classroom.
This article focuses on the benefits of using stop-motion animation for learners to tell their own mathematical tales. Learners are given a starting point for their stories, such as a number sentence, misconception or mathematical character, and can then decide on the setting for their story, and consider how they are going to solve the mathematical problems that arise.
There are a number of different techniques that can be used for stop-motion, but one of the simplest is object animation. Objects are physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames so that they appear to move independently when the frames are played back.
Using stop-motion to tell mathematical stories increases learners’ engagement by making them active learners, and also engages with their interests ensuring they can see the relevance of Maths and apply it in meaningful contexts.
If a learner likes playing with Lego, they can build Lego models for their story. If they like to draw, they can draw, and if they like stories about fairies, their mathematical story can feature fairies.
Most educators would agree that in order to be confident mathematicians, our learners need to develop good conceptual understanding in mathematics.
Stop-motion enables learners to see and demonstrate mathematical concepts in a variety of contexts, using different representations, which is an essential part of developing good conceptual understanding.
Developing the narrative, and planning each frame of the stop-motion, makes learning mathematics conceptually effective as learners consider mathematical concepts through the different representations.
And of course, learners will need to have a secure understanding of a Maths concept in the first place to put it into the context of a story.
When recording a stop-motion production, learners need to break down each step carefully thinking about the mathematical process and repeating the same process several times, eg writing the story, developing the story board, planning the stop-motion, creating the stop-motion, which will all have a positive impact on fluency.
Setting Maths concepts into different storylines can also help learners to make links. For example, being able to see that counting 6 gold coins in 2s for their pirate story is linked to sharing 6 jam tarts at a picnic, or decorating 3 snowmen with 2 buttons.
Showing the concept of 6 x 2 or 6 ÷3:
Applying mathematics to solve problems in real-world contexts is a critical part of our everyday lives. Mathematical stories are often based on a character’s misconceptions and several different solutions may be tried before finding the end result.
Using stop-motion to tell stories with mathematical problems and solutions encourages learners to consider and apply the different solutions, considering possible difficulties and misconceptions that could arise. This builds resilience as well as a sense of achievement and enjoyment, as learners overcome the challenges involved and it encourages them to be creative because they need to experiment, take risks and be flexible to tackle the mathematical problems in their stories.
As learners reflect on the approaches used in the stories, and on their own learning, they are developing metacognitive skills that can help them improve as mathematical learners.
I am passionate about authentic, creative experiences for learners and believe this pedagogical approach is a simple but effective way for educators to deliver creative and engaging Maths experiences.
And an added bonus?
Using digital storytelling to improve Maths learning develops a whole host of cross-curricular and wider skills at the same time so why not give it a whirl? Try it in your classroom and see if the power of digital storytelling can help your learners love and understand Maths.