How Wide Is a Squid Eye? Integrating Mathematics into Public Library Programs for the Elementary Grades

Kliman, Marlene, Nuria Jaumot-Pascual, and Valerie Martin. 2013. “How Wide Is a Squid Eye? Integrating Mathematics into Public Library Programs for the Elementary Grades.” Afterschool Matters, no. 17 (January): 9–15.

The authors, researchers with TERC in Massachusetts, describe an NSF funded project, Math Off the Shelf, where informal educators are given access to a bank of over 200 activities that incorporate math for elementary age students. The researchers consulted with public children’s librarians, and considered both common and uncommon characteristics of a public library, when designing the activities. They cite research showing that on the one hand, engaging children with math outside of the school improves learning math and attitudes toward math, but on the other hand, informal educators are math avoidant and do not share their own use of math in everyday tasks with children. Further, even though science is increasingly seen as a “social” activity where kids learn through working on problems together, people still see math as a subject learned through facts, not something learned socially. The activities they designed address these issues in the public library because the library allows for a place to gather opinions (making math questions more relevant), a place to share math problem-solving strategies (learning socially), and a place to incorporate literature into a math activity. They describe how an external evaluator surveyed the librarians for their perception of math and how they used math in activities before and after introducing the activity bank. After the introduction of the activities, more librarians viewed math as important in their library services and were incorporating math into their everyday interactions with children in the library.

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