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The Story of Mathematics Lesson Plan

Author: Melanie Skankey

Year: 2013

Artform: Theatre

Subjects: Math

Grade: 1st and 2nd

Duration: 50 minutes

Overview: The main objective is for students to use the theatre skills of creating a scene to gain skills in breaking down story problems. Through this activity students are able to connect math terms to real world problems in an imaginative way.

Standards and Objectives

National Theatre Standards:
Creating Standard 2.1
Contribute to the development of a sequential plot in a guided drama experience
Domain: Operational and Algebraic Thinking Standard 1.2:
Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
  1. Student will identify words used in story problems that represent mathematical symbols (e.g. more is the same as addition).
  2. Students will assist in creating short scenes that include character, setting and plot. The plot will include a mathematical problem that needs to be solved.



  1. To help students prepare to play various characters warm the class up by playing the theatre game Stop and Go.
  2. The teacher plays a beat on the drum or a piece of recorded music. When there is sound, the students should be moving. When the sound stops students should freeze.
  3. Once students have mastered the stop and go with the sound, give students cues of how they should go around the room. For example, they could walk around the room like a movie star, a monster, someone in space, going to the library, like they are angry, etc.
  4. Once students can go in various ways give them ways to stop as well. For example, stop like you are excited, you are lost, you are royalty, you are your favorite animal etc.
  5. When you notice a students using their body in an interesting way to either stop or go pause the class and recognize that students. Ask the students what it is they are doing with their body to let everyone know what character they are. Give opportunities for different groups to show their movement and ask students to point out specific things the students do to show their character (I know she is a dinosaur because she is using strong steps)
  6. Show students the first goal for the day: By the end of the lesson I want you to be able to tell a story using your bodies only.


  1. Many people tell entire stories using only their bodies to tell people who they are. When we are telling a story we have certain ingredients we need to make the story successful. Ask students to identify those ingredients: setting, character and plot.
  2. Tell students that you are going to write a story on the board and ask them to find where the setting, character and plot are
  3. Write on the board: 4+5=9 is this a story? It can be!
    1. First we find the Plot (4+5) that’s the problem and the solution is (9)
    2. What is the number 4 in our story? And will the problem give us more or less of it? (more because its addition) So what is something you want more of? For this example lets do ice cream. So the 4 is 4 ice cream cones.
    3. Lets get some characters who is getting the ice cream (kids!) okay and who has the ice cream? (the ice cream seller)
    4. So in our math story the kids have 4 ice cream cones but they want more! How many more do they get? (5) so in the end they have 9 ice cream cones.
    5. We need a setting? Where should the story happen? (The Park)


  1. Is this a story we can retell with our bodies? Yes! Ask students how they might portray the kids or ice cream seller with their bodies?
  2. Select a few students to create the setting with their bodies (Have students play trees, kids playing outside anything that would make the classroom seem like a park). Select additional students to play the characters. The classroom teacher will narrate because the students can only use their bodies to tell the story. If there are audience members ask them to record the numbers in the problem as we encounter them on their whiteboards. They will be the ones to make sure we communicated everything correctly.
  3. Who knew that math could make such great stories! People use math everyday just like this to solve their own problems. Show students the second goal: We can use math to solve problems in our world.
  4. After telling this first story write a new addition problem on the board. In this story are we getting more or less of something? (more its addition)
  5. Have the students determine the Plot (why are they getting more?) the characters and setting for this problems. With the teacher as the narrator retell the story.
  6. If time permits tell enough stories so that each member of the class has the chance to be both a character in the story and a piece of the setting.


Gather the class on the rug. Ask the students if they accomplished their goals for the day. Have a few students share examples of classmates they saw who did a good job of using their bodies to be a character. Have a few students share examples of problems they could solve using math.

  • How can we retell a story using only our bodies?
  • How is math used in our world to help solve problems?
Advanced Learners: After doing a few problems as a whole class, students can be put into groups to create their own math scene. Advanced Learners: Try giving the class a problem that uses both addition and subtraction. How will this change the story? Struggling Learners: Pause the action in the scene to ask the students how much the character have? Have they lost or gained anything? Use white boards to keep track of the information in the scene. Shy Students: Give students simple parts in the setting until they feel comfortable taking on a larger role.
  • Various Mathematical Terms used in story problems such as More, Greater, Gain, Lose, Stolen, less, get rid of, sell, buy, etc.
  • Character: Who’s in the story
  • Setting: Where the story happens
  • Plot: What’s the problem? How do we solve it?
Students will use the correct math symbols when recording the story problem on their whiteboard. Students will use correct math terminology in their story to describe what is happening (We went the store to get more ice cream means it’s an addition problem.)
Useful Prior Knowledge: Students should understand that a fiction story needs to have character, setting and plot. Students should have a basic grasp of mathematical symbols and basic addition and subtraction problem solving.


  • Background Music or a small drum
  • (Optional) Small white boards and markers for displaying students responses