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Ihor Charischak

Ihor is the Mathematics Project Manager at The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. Check out his home page.

What is a Story?

In what's become a daily ritual for me I started by asking google to help me answer the question "What is a Story?"  Here's one I liked:

"Any sequence of events with a beginning, middle, and an end makes up a story, but it would not be a very interesting story unless it had a dramatic twist of some sort so the end could not be anticipated."1

This reminded me that what I do as a teacher and story telling have a lot in common. I usually start with something that will grab the students' attention (a beginning). Then we do some sort of group, hands-on activity (a middle). In the last few minutes of the time we have together I ask the group to stop, reflect and share what was learned today (an end). As a teacher I then ask myself whether the lesson was successful (i.e. Did I achieve my goals?).

Invariably, there will be lots of surprises ranging from “the lesson was a real stinker” to “I can’t believe what a great lesson that was!” It is the latter reaction that has always inspired me to create ways to engage students in activities that make a difference for them. “Oh, now I get it,” is one of my favorite student responses. I’m sure you have a repertoire of favorites yourself.

On Tuesday Don asked us to come up with our top ten favorite tools. What I’d like to ask you for is a favorite story (or two) of how a mathtool has made a difference for you in teaching students (of any age).

I have three vignettes that I would like to share with you. Each story will come in three “acts”: (1) Setting the stage, (2) Doing the activity and (3) Debriefing.  The stories are (coming soon):

  • The Great Green Globs Contest
  • Playing Fraction Darts: discovering something about teacher’s knowledge of fractions
  • The Weird Number: how to flatten the fraction barriers

Once you have had a chance to read one or all of these stories, I encourage you to share a story with us about using a math tool with your students.

The story entry page is at

where you will be prompted for information about your story. Also you will need to know the URL of the page in the Math Tools catalog that describes the tool you are using.

I look forward to reading them.


1 “What is a Story?”


© 2003-2005 The Math Forum @ Drexel, part of NSF's NSDL
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-0226284.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.