Computational Fluency, Math, problem solving

What Stories Live in These Equations?


Learning is embedded in memory, history and story.

British Columbia First Peoples Principles of Learning

The human brain is wired to remember stories.  In many cultures, the power of storytelling has been harnessed to teach important lessons, pass down traditions, and make sense of the world.   Storifying content can help culturally diverse learners (and all learners) build contexts for learning, identify similarities and differences, find relationships, notice how concepts fit together, and recognize a different point of view.  This is the brain’s way of weaving it all together and making learning stick.

At our November K-5 Mathematics Leadership Community we began our time together with a provocation at each table that invited teachers to them to choose an equation from a pile of possibilities and create a story to go with it.  I had seen this idea in a tweet from Janice Novakowski and was inspired to recreate it for our learners. The equations ranged from grade 1 to grade 6 content, and had the unknown part of the equation in different places within the equations.  This storifying provocation provoked learners to:

  • develop their own contexts for equation of their choosing
  • share stories with others
  • engage in conversations about creating problems and problem types
  • connect math to familiar contexts 

This provocation also allowed us, as teachers to dig into Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).  CGI is a research based approach to teaching mathematics that builds on children’s natural problem solving strategies within different contexts.  CGI allows teachers to identify problem types which students are comfortable working with and ones they may not be using or working with…yet.  Through identification teachers can support student learning of all problem types and applications.

Resources to support your provocations:

What stories live in these equations?- Provocation

What Stories Live in These Equations Picture.PNG




Story Recording Template

Equation Stories template.PNG



Cognitively Guided Instruction- Teacher Information

CGI Information.PNG