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Integrating Children's Literature and Mathematics in the Classroom: Children as Meaning Makers, Problem Solvers and Literary Critics.

Like many inventions, this book grew out of the author's professed need for guidance in selecting children's trade books about mathematics. Schiro's frustrations with unreliable resources that rated children's books led him to develop his own set of evaluation standards, based on Polya's problem-solving method and literary criticism research.

Unlike other professional books on linking mathematics and children's books, Schiro provides the reader with the theoretical underpinnings necessary to critically evaluate both the mathematical concepts presented as well as the literary quality of the book itself. Over several years, the author and his colleagues created and refined an assessment tool that enables users to learn about mathematical literary criticism. They also developed editing strategies that could enhance children's trade books.

In his classroom-tested model, the author takes the reader step by step through the cycle of mathematical literary criticism, from a book's introduction to the children through their exploration to discover the "math" inside each book. This joint venture between the children and the teacher unfolds as they brainstorm possibilities for concepts and problem solving from a book's story line and illustrations.

Next, children begin to evaluate the effectiveness of the author's explanations, pointing out where they are confused or misled by what the author wrote or the illustrator drew. Children are quick to notice when a "book is not working right," when what is portrayed in the text or illustration does not make sense, or is inconsistent from one page to the next. Working collaboratively, children discuss ways to improve upon the author's presentation, suggesting changes in wording or format, and recommending the inclusion of equations, displays or charts, where appropriate. As children and teachers work through this process, their knowledge of mathematical concepts is refined, and their mathematical language expands. In communicating and sharing their ideas, children learn alternative ways of problem solving and reasoning, rather than considering only "one right way."

Both preservice and inservice teachers will appreciate the inclusion of concrete examples for each evaluation standard, showing when a trade book meets or falls short of that particular standard. A classroom scenario for the mathematical criticism and editing process enables readers to see how the process looks in action, and to consider the range of possibilities that are afforded by Schiro's model.

In only five chapters, readers will discover not only how to facilitate children's understanding of mathematics, but also how to enhance their growth as readers and writers. Throughout the book, Schiro emphasizes the value of slowing down, rereading, rethinking and reconsidering. We begin to appreciate that taking the time to learn well and deeply is what schools should foster, not merely "covering the curriculum."

Schiro has succeeded not only in writing a long-overdue text, but also in conveying his encouragement and respect for teachers and children as learners. His readers will never view literature or learning mathematics quite the same way again. Reviewed by Rebecca P. Harlin, Associate Professor, Department of Elementary Education, Florida International University, Miami
COPYRIGHT 1998 Association for Childhood Education International
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Harlin, Rebecca P.
Publication:Childhood Education
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1998
Words:493
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