Laura Nigro
Ontario Tech University


This chapter explores digital storytelling and how it can be used in delivering mathematical lessons. Digital storytelling incorporates storytelling elements and educational technologies. Educational technologies are important to explore as they help students develop 21s century learning skills, active learning, and student engagement. The literature review section explores different studies surrounding digital storytelling and specific studies in mathematic instruction. This chapter further looks at how digital storytelling can effectively be applied in the TPACK model. Digital storytelling can be used in the Ontario math curriculum, particularly in the strand on social and emotional learning. It also lends itself well to creating and solving rich math tasks. Digital storytelling can also be used in the instructional process for planning and delivering lessons.


active learning, collaboration, critical thinking, digital storytelling, mathematics, student engagement


Technology in education needs to be incorporated in a meaningful way. Education is vastly changing as technology expands and the needs of students change. It is important to utilize technological tools and foster 21st century learning skills in the modern-day learner. Students are bombarded daily with information, and it is important to be able to sift through new ideas and connect it to prior knowledge. This skill set incorporates both critical thinking and collaboration. Collaboration is a necessary skill that applies to all stakeholders in education.

Storytelling as a teaching tool is beneficial because it helps with developing language skills, memorization, supporting motivation, creativity, engagement, and problem-solving skills (Albano & Iacono, 2019). Digital storytelling (DST) is specifically known as a twenty-first century learning model that incorporates multimodal elements in a story (Niemi, et al., 2018). DST combines digital multimedia such as images and video, with the art of telling stories (Robin, 2008). There are seven elements of DST that have been identified that serve as a framework for starting with digital stories (Lambert, 2007). These elements are point of view, a dramatic question, emotional content, the gift of your voice, the power of the soundtrack, economy, and pacing (Lambert, 2007). Digital stories can be classified into three major types: personal narratives, historical documentaries, and stories designed to inform or instruct; however, they can also consist of a combination of the three (Robin, 2008). DST helps develop 21st century learning skills in creativity and innovation, collaboration, and critical thinking. Technology tools such as Procreate (Savage, 2021), Minecraft for Education (Miscrosoft, 2022), Cantoo Scribe (formerly MathEOS) (Cantoo, n.d.), and Storyboard That (Clever Prototypes, 2022) are some of the tools that can be used to create digital stories.

This chapter will specifically focus on digital storytelling designed to inform or instruct in the mathematics curriculum and its development of 21st century learning skills in students.

Background Information

Active Learning and Engagement

The constructivist learning model views learning as an active process where learners construct knowledge based on many experiences and social interactions (Vygotsky, 1982).  Learning environments that incorporate different aspects of the learner, such as gender norms, culture, and religious differences, help students feel more comfortable and engaged in their learning (Donovan et al., 2002). When students see themselves in their learning, they are more likely to participate and engage with the material. Engagement is important for student learning as students need engagement to gather new ideas and challenge misconceptions (Donovan et al., 2002). Engagement can occur through meaning and through knowing what students need (Fullan, 2013). Engagement can be enhanced by technology-rich learning environments (Niemi, et al., 2018).

Learning through digital storytelling is a process where social interactions occur among learners, materials, and other people, which builds on the constructivist model as learners are digital content creators when working with DST (Vygotsky, 1982). In mathematics, storytelling helps introduce challenging concepts through engagement and in a student-centred way (Albano & Iacono, 2019). A story can help put a mathematical problem into context by situating the problem and making it relatable to the learner. However, the story needs to be presented in a way that does not overpower the math problem and make it more confusing (Albano & Iacono, 2019). Digital storytelling is an effective tool to enhance student engagement (Ozpinar et al., 2017). In one study that looked at the effects of learning based on digital storytelling on academic achievement, found that students performed better when the instruction was based on digital storytelling than the group where instruction was based on Powerpoint assisted lessons (Ozpinar et al., 2017). In another study that looked at students in a mathematics course instructed with digital storytelling, found that students had increased participation when compared to other courses (Ozpinar et al., 2017). Students like digital stories because they are attention-grabbing, make learning effective and fun, are associated with daily life, and narrate a subject in a logical and detailed way (Ozpinar et al., 2017).

21st Century Learning Skills

Collaboration is a fundamental learning skill that promotes student-focused and multiway education (Tapscott, 2009). Peer to peer teaching does less “telling” and treats students as learning partners and can employ students’ own tools (e.g. cell phones) in the learning process (Fullan, 2013). In digital storytelling, students can learn the content knowledge, create digital stories, and share this knowledge with their peers (Niemi et al., 2018). Digital storytelling offers opportunities for students to co-create a story with their peers.

Critical thinking involves thinking about different problem-solving strategies to approach a problem (Brown et al., 2014). Digital learning environments help learners develop critical thinking skills when engaging with, producing, and sharing media (Niemi et al., 2018). Digital storytelling supports critical thinking skills by combining narrative and logical components (Albano et al., 2020). The narrative conveys a problem that needs to be worked through.


Digital storytelling might not be preferred in all learning environments. One study found that some students like question-and-answer methods better because it was seen as more productive (Ozpinar et al., 2017). Digital storytelling does take time and can be challenging when there are time constraints in the classroom. It also might not be suitable for all subject areas. For example, teaching simpler topics in mathematics, such as basic computation skills, might not require a digital story. One study on pre-service teachers using DST for mathematic lessons found that teachers felt they spent more time looking for images and making sure audio matched (Kildan & Incikabi, 2013). Since digital storytelling requires technology, it can be a challenge to use in classrooms that have limited technology available. It might take longer to implement in the classroom because of time constraints in the subject area as well. However, digital storytelling lends itself well to a cross-curricular approach and can cover different areas of curricula.



A framework for looking at effective classroom instruction is the TPACK model which looks at how technology, pedagogy, and content interconnect in a way that fosters student engagement (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Digital storytelling combines these three elements and provides an effective instructional design. Teaching problem solving methods has shifted to teaching through problem-solving, a mode of learning that fits this framework (Walters et al., 2018). In the model, technology is used, like an application such as Storyboard That (Clever Prototype, 2022), to create the content. Pedagogy is seen engagement, challenges, and creativity (Walters et al., 2018). Lastly, content knowledge is in the problem-solving process and how orderly thinking is encouraged to help understand mathematical concepts (Walters et al., 2018). For example, while viewing a digital story, students could be following along completing different math questions that are needed to solve a larger problem.

Figure 1

TPACK model adapted from Koehler and Mishra (2009)

Figure 1: Venn diagram displaying the overlap of the TPACK model adapted from Koehler & Mishra (2009)

Curriculum Expectations

Digital stories can be applied in the elementary mathematics curriculum. One possible application is using digital stories to assess the social and emotional learning expectations in the Ontario mathematics curriculum (Government of Ontario, 2020). This can occur across all grade levels. This can be done in a way that is student-centred where students can create their own digital stories to express their learning journey in mathematics. For example, Tang (2013) created a digital story to reflect on her struggle with mathematics. Students can reflect on their learning as they apply the mathematical processes and learn to develop awareness and sense of identity. This promotes reflection in the learning process which is necessary for learning to occur (Fullan, 2013). After working on a math problem, students can have a period of reflection and then voice or write their reflection in a digital story, which also serves as a digital artifact of their learning (Fullan, 2013).

Another possible application for digital stories is incorporating them in rich math tasks. Rich math tasks are meant to get the learner immersed into the math problem by introducing the problem and requiring different problem-solving skills (Hewson, 2011). A rich math task can incorporate digital storytelling skills by posing a problem and providing context to the problem that the learners must make sense of. These digital stories could be teacher created or student created. They can help students comprehend challenging material (Robin, 2008).

Lastly, digital storytelling can be used as an instructional tool for teachers. DST can help integrate technology into a lesson plan, it can be used to help set up a guiding inquiry or hook. It can be teacher-facilitated or as a teacher-observer depending on where the students are in developing their computer literacy skills to get started.

Conclusions and Future Recommendations

Digital storytelling can provide meaningful context in mathematical education. By looking at math through a story, students can apply mathematical concepts, procedures, reasoning, and apply mathematical problem-solving strategies in a context that is authentic to them (Walters et al., 2018). Using edtech tools such as digital storytelling helps develop problem-solving skills, collaboration, critical thinking skills, and increases student engagement. As a next step, it would be ideal to explore specific applications and tools that can be used in digital storytelling and assessing their effectiveness in the classroom.


Albano, G., & Iacono, U. D. (2019). Designing digital storytelling for mathematics special education: An experience in support teacher education. The Mathematics Enthusiast, 16(1–3), 263–288.

Albano, G., Coppola, C., Dello Iacono, U., Fiorentino, G., Pierri, A., & Polo, M. (2020). Technology to enable new paradigms of teaching/learning in mathematics: The digital interactive storytelling case. Journal of E-Learning and Knowledge Society, pp.65-71.

Brown, P. C., Roediger, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Learning is misunderstood. Make it Stick. pp. 1-22. Belknap.

Cantoo (n.d.). Cantoo Scribe. [Web page].

Clever Prototypes (2022). Storyboard That: Digital Storytelling. [Web page].

Donovan, M.S, Bransford, J. D., & Pellegrino, J.W. (2002). Key Findings. How people learn: Bridging research & practice. pp. 10-24. National Academy Press.

Fullan, M. (2013). Pedagogy and change: Essence as easy. Stratosphere. pp. 17-32. Pearson.

Government of Ontario (2022). Mathematics (2020). Curriculum and Resources.

Hewsen, S. (2011). What Is a Mathematically Rich Task? NRICH.

Kildan, A. O., & Incikabi, L. (2015). Effects on the technological pedagogical content knowledge of early childhood teacher candidates using digital storytelling to teach mathematics. Education43(3), 238–248.

Koehler, M., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK)? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education9(1), 60–70.

Lambert, J. (2007). Digital storytelling: Capturing lives, creating community. Digital Diner Press.

Microsoft (2022). Minecraft: Education Edition.

Minecraft for Education. (n.d.) Minecraft.

Niemi, H., Niu, S., Vivitsou, M., & Li, B. (2018). Digital storytelling for twenty-first-century competencies with math literacy and student engagement in china and finland. Contemporary Educational Technology, 9(4), 331–353.

Özpinar, İ., Gökçe, S., & Yenmez, A. A. (2017). Effects of digital storytelling in mathematics instruction on academic achievement and examination of teacher-student opinions on the process. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 5(10), 137.

Robin, B. R. (2008). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory Into Practice47(3), 220–228.

Savage (2021). Procreate for iPad.

Tang, M. (2013). My struggle with mathematics. Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling.

Tapscott, D. (2009). The eight net gen norms. In Grown up digital. pp.75-96. McGraw-Hill.

Walters, L.M., Green, M.R., Goldsby, D., & Parker, D. (2018). Digital storytelling as a problem-solving strategy in mathematics teacher education: How making a math-eo engages and excites 21st century students. International Journal of Technology in Education and Science (IJTES), 2(1), 1-16.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1982). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Technology and the Curriculum: Summer 2022 Copyright © 2022 by Laura Nigro is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book