Engaging the imagination


“Engaging the imagination is not a sugar-coated adjunct to learning; it is the very heart of learning” Kieran Egan

“You have to be a magician to keep a kid’s attention for more than five minutes these days!” Foghorn Leghorn

Mathematics is often perceived as a collection of facts and skills to be learned, and often these facts and skills are counterintuitive to the learner. When this happens a common student’s reaction is to seek refuge in the meaningless memorization of rules.

First act of wondering  can become a pivot for further mathematical instruction. To engage students in mathematics our goal is to ignite the fires of curiosity, to get them wondering why things are as they are. “I wonder why…” is the beginning of wonder and inquiry. A very direct way to get students to wonder about things in mathematics is to ask them ‘why’ something is as it is.


Mathematical activity inherently related to the imagination. How to describe, perceive for example negative numbers, all variables, division by zero, infinite set, non-Euclidean geometry without imagination.

Understanding mathematical concepts often involves seeing things in new ways and venturing beyond our limited perspective.

Images created in traditional oral cultures have the crucial social role of aiding memorization. Some images, no doubt, are influenced by pictures in books, but it is common to find that the most vivid and evocative images are those we generate for ourselves while listening to stories.

If we are to make knowledge meaningful for students, then we must introduce it in the context of these human emotions—and the imagination is the best tool for accomplishing this task. Imagination accompanied by a charge of emotion.


Emotional connection is important  for good storytelling. We need to convince our audience that what we are talking about matters. But equally important is to know which details should be omitted in order to understand the punchline. Sometimes you have to lie to tell the truth.

If young student do not know  what is the dodecahedron it will not destroy his chances to succeed in math. But if the young student hated and does not understand anything in math, it will destroy his chances to succeed.

Math Storytelling is a great opportunity to get children excited about math through stories wich can include logic, patterns, puzzles and numbers, story that asks a question. Stories are told to help people learn a lesson or understand a problem. This is a step to appreciate all the ways math enhances our daily lives.

Not all math stories are happy. Many grown-ups have their math agony stories, telling of giving up on mathematics. Share story with us if you have such math grief story.

You probably learned many fairy tales when you were young. We ask people who come from different parts of the world about the stories they learned when they were young. Are they the same kinds of stories?


The task of stimulating interest in mathematics often involves locating mathematics in the wider context of wonder.

What is there about mathematics that is so awesome to wonder? There is no answer to such a challenge. It is same for beauty : wonder is in the eye of the viewer. We can only say that for many, ourselves included, there is wonder in everything in mathematics.

Make it human

Science and mathematics texts seem particularly ‘inhuman’. Text-books, in particular mathematics textbooks, have tended to disguise from us the simple truth that all knowledge is human knowledge. Do not forget this.


We tell stories in the mathematics classroom to achieve an environment of imagination, emotion, and thinking. We tell stories in the mathematics classroom to make mathematics more enjoyable and more memorable. We tell stories in the mathematics classroom to engage students in a mathematical activity, to make them think and explore, and to help them understand concepts and ideas.

What we are going to do

We share techniques for storytelling that makes telling more interactive and more appealing. We present a framework that may help potential storytellers create their own stories, as well as ideas as to how existing stories can be enriched and adapted for the needs of any particular audience. By such means we hope that more teachers and more colleagues will story-tell in their classrooms, and be patient enough to wait for long-term benefits.

  • Stories can provide a frame or a background to mathematical problems, stories can deeply intertwine with the content, and stories can explain concepts or ideas.
  • Spark interest, assist in memory, reduce anxiety are some of the advantages of storytelling in the classroom.
  • Make that students acting like their heroes, create empathy, provide them something to hold to, make the lesson more relevant and more vivid, make break from the routine, creating a refuge to return to and to seek more stories.
  • Whether in the form of oral, pictorial, written, or film media, stories help in the exchange of experiences from one to another.
  • Mechanisms such as art, drama, music and movement combined with visual images help strengthen the ability to transfer knowledge.
  • Introducing stories in mathematics classrooms will change the stories about t he mathematical experiences of
  • Creating interest with a story is an important initial step. Describing a chain of events may engage students, create excitement, mystery or suspense, and motivate thinking about a particular problem. Stories may convey passion and enthusiasm.
  • Attention is a delicate thing. Although it is easily Sparking students’ initial interest with a story it is hard to sustain this interest, to sustain students’ engagement and not let it evaporate as the story ends. That is why some of our stories never end. Constant stimulus, the change of the rhythm in the classroom is necessary.
  • Variation on a story can help in solving a problem or gaining a better understanding of a solution
  • Make that storytelling is frequent and regular activity in a mathematics classroom.


About DaNe

Math teacher and IT expert with nearly 30 years of experience with interest in math, astronomy, life long learning, dance, music.
This entry was posted in Mathematics, StoryTelling and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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