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The Poets Know It: Integrating Poetry in Math Instruction

The Poets Know It: Integrating Poetry in Math Instruction

  |   Aaron School, Elementary School, Special Programs

April was Poetry Month and Ms. Huang’s math group celebrated by incorporating literacy into a math lesson. The group first started by reading the poem Smart by Shel Silverstein, a comical story narrated by a son who is revealed to have a misunderstanding of money. The students highlighted the amounts in the poem such as “2 quarters” and “3 dimes” and used a Flow Map to track how the son trades in his money. Through careful analysis and some silly revelations, the class recognized that the son was losing money rather than gaining. One student hilariously commented, “The son isn’t smart and the father is actually angry, not proud!”


Integrating poetry into math builds various skills that are used across curriculums. Higher levels of math require students to solve word problems and extract important verbal information before transferring it into numerical information. This can be a daunting task especially due to the overwhelming amount of details. Therefore, it’s important to introduce generalizable steps and strategies to help students isolate the “sound from the noise” or the important information from the trivia. By using a Flow Map, students visually practice their sequencing skills by examining the events in the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Students had the flexibility to choose how to express their information, such as in the form of words, numbers and pictures. Finally, the class answered short-response questions, as a post-assessment of their understanding.


Despite the multiple steps and layered nature of this task, students performed favorably by condensing information and representing their findings in both numerical and verbal ways. In addition, inferencing happens as some students conclude that the son confuses more coins with more money. Now, if you ask the group whether they’d prefer one dollar to 5 pennies, they will definitely avoid the same mistake as the “Smart” son!