Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Summary – Math and Libraries

I’m starting something new.  Monday Summary may not happen every Monday.  However, I’ll endeavor to summarize and offer my thoughts on a library science related article every week.  I’m starting with a simple article this week.  One from a more popular periodical, instead of something scholarly.  I’ll try to switch up sources every once in a while.  The purpose of this is to keep me up to date on my field and to find interesting tidbits of information related to information literacy, critical thinking, or whatever tickles my fancy.  A second purpose is to inform my readers (and I have stats proving you exist even if few comment).  Most of my readers are not information professionals, but they might be interested in what librarians find print worthy.  Feel free to ask questions or post comments or email me if you want.

Fleming, Dan.  “Let Me Count the Ways.” School Library Journal.  August 2004, 42-44.

This isn’t one of those peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles that I should be digging through, but it caught my geek-eye due to the MATH.  I work algebra problems for fun and relaxation (yes, I’m one of those people).

Dan Fleming’s overall argument is that librarians should integrate math into information literacy lessons and everywhere else we can.  He focuses mainly on k-12 because of his experience.  He doesn’t want librarians to feel intimidated by math integration and recommends looking at statewide math standards as a starting point and focus for math lessons.  Fleming summarized the math standards for Massachusetts in this article.  He recommends developing math resources through collection development and finding math in “non-math” subjects (and while collaborating with teachers in those subjects).  An insert on the last page of the article provides details on the “Links between Information Literacy and Math Skills.”  The article closes with encouragement of creativity and by offering example exercises.

This article was published in 2004, and I haven’t noticed an increase in math in libraries, which is depressing.  Fleming is onto a great idea here.  Math, especially through word problems, can develop critical thinking skills.  It may also encourage an interest in math and science among students.  At the very least it may encourage an appreciation of those subjects and the way subjects bleed into one another and overlap. 

Fleming quotes one of his former students, Theresa Conroy, as stating, “The school library provides a setting for students to take a second and third look at ideas presented in the classroom” (44).  I think this is a point many people miss.  Librarians can reinforce subject knowledge, understanding, and literacy.

I think Fleming’s ideas can apply just as well to higher education.  College and university librarians should take note when it comes to information literacy courses (whether general or subject specific).  Any way we can encourage math and science should be viewed as important in the United States.  We’re already falling behind in those subjects compared to several other countries.  And critical thinking skills need constant reinforcement throughout life.

I’m one of those “math” people.  I’m always playing with numbers and automatically get interested when they come up.  So, Fleming’s article speaks to me, especially considering I never thought of this approach before.  I’ll be trying to find ways to integrate math into some of my upcoming worksheets and lessons (look for those blog posts soon).


  1. That's funny, I'm a "math" person too. I involuntarily do math all the time. I multiply numbers on license plates, I do most of my lab calculations in my head, I play with phone numbers. As a kid, if I was ever bored, I'd read the phone book. How crazy is that?
    I think reading, grammar, and math should be integrated in all classes.

  2. Glad I'm not the only one. I don't want to be the only crazy math person in the world. :)

  3. Yeah, well... you're both weird.

    (it takes one to know one.)