As we begin a new semester, I decided to start the class off by asking students to research some of the founders of Calculus. This is a way to ease into what calculus really is. As each student started to pick individuals, I was asked how they were doing to present this information.
“Yes how would you like to present this to your classmates.”
I love flipping the question back for them to decide. I said anything goes. And off they went to research and formulate a way to tell the story of their mathematician.
We came back together a week later for the presentations. I was very anxious to see what they would do. First student comes up and starts playing a rap tune and starts rapping about Kepler’s life. A standing ovation took over the room.
My students impressed me with the variety of presentations from interpretive dance to card games. But what I really loved the most was how students took the time to write stories about the mathematician to share with the group.
Storytelling is an art and these were well created and amazed me with the imagination and plot. One student told the story as she was drawing it on the whiteboard. It had a cliff hanger in it about his love life and the possibility of his stealing his theory. Another told the life story through a child’s drawings. One included shaded figures in the background to represent siblings. But the research wasn't exact on the number so they were ghost figures to mean siblings just not how many.
The purpose of the assignment is to lay the background for calculus and to show students learning can be fun. Stories help us process and remember information. Perhaps they even touch a part of our consciousness associated with the magic and creativity of childhood. Stories are the emotional glue that connects the audience to the message. Stories reshape knowledge into something meaningful. I know my class will really remember the information they were told and now we will be prepared a bit more for the crazy new world of calculus.
Storytelling has always been part of my science classes but now I have felt the desire to add more to my math classes. So if you are feeling the same drive here are some of my favorite sites: