Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Trade Books in the Mathematics Classroom: The Impact of Many, Varied Perspectives on Determinations of Quality

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Trade Books in the Mathematics Classroom: The Impact of Many, Varied Perspectives on Determinations of Quality

Article excerpt

The integration of children's trade books in the mathematics classroom has experienced a dramatic surge in its popularity; yet, though the positive benefits of this strategy have been well documented, these benefits may only be realized if the literature is of high quality. Utilizing a mathematics trade book evaluation instrument, this inquiry explored the impact of varied backgrounds and perspectives on determinations of quality. Utilizing 30 reviewers from five distinct groups and conducting more than 180 evaluations of six trade books, it was found that the background of the reviewer and the number of reviewers involved in the evaluation affected quality determinations. The results indicate that though instruments such as Hunsader's provide a valuable tool for evaluating mathematics literature, the evaluation process, including the number and the background of those involved in the review, greatly affects evaluation results. Subsequently, it is vital that teachers and other educators who either incorporate, or recommend the incorporation of, mathematics trade books actively explore and assess the evaluation and recommendation processes.

Keywords: elementary mathematics, quality trade books

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Children's literature has long been used to support children's social, emotional, and intellectual development. Through a text's presentation of various situations, children are afforded the opportunity to vicariously experience and cope with conflict, responsibility, cooperation, helpfulness, and other real-world scenarios. When the literature is integrated within mathematics instructions, it can help children "experience the potential wonder of mathematics ... and helps them make sense of the world" (Hong, 1996, p. 479). Yet the benefits of mathematics literature integration may only be fully realized if the literature is of high quality, for it is only mathematical literature that exhibits high-quality characteristics that can provide children with opportunities to make personal connections, pose questions, formulate mathematical ideas in their own language, and, ultimately, participate in mathematical communities that celebrate their ideas and voices (Austin, 1998; Hellwig, Monroe, & Jacobs, 2000; Hunsader, 2004; Whitin, 2002).

Prompted by a published article related to evaluating texts that are commonly found on recommended lists (see Hunsader, 2004), the research described in the current study was designed to better define the process for determining the quality of elementary mathematics literature. Schiro (1997) pointed out that many of us realize the literary benefits of reading something two or three times, discussing with others to synthesize our interpretations, and organizing ideas for how a story is best used. However, many times, a particular text may be recommended for use in the mathematics classroom without this important review process for determining the quality or best use. The current study was organized to explore the possible value of a more formalized review of recommended texts, based on evaluations by individuals with varied, specialized backgrounds. We anticipate that by acknowledging and conducting research that addresses the impact of multiple varied perspectives, as well as an evaluator's background, on quality designations, the potential bias propagated through an evaluator's subjectivity is explored--with the prospective result being a movement toward the listing and implementation of only high-quality mathematics literature.

QUESTIONING QUALITY

The genre of children's literature encompasses all books that are centered and focused on the child while also appropriately reflecting the emotions and experiences of the child (Huck & Kiefer, 2004), and mathematics literature references any piece that has the potential to engage children in mathematical conversations. These broad descriptions allow for the inclusion of a plethora of literary pieces, yet not all of the pieces that are classified as children's literature or mathematics children's literature are high-quality texts. …

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