Featured Math Reading

Math Is More Than Just Numbers, It’s Letters, Too.

January 9, 2017

Hello, magical math teachers! I am so happy you have stopped by to check out Tenspire! I am so thankful to have this space to share ideas, triumphs, challenges, and the latest Math-related topics with you!

Each school year brings a fresh sense of excitement, a new group of sweet faces, and new challenges. With the path of education constantly finding new directions, it’s no surprise that teachers are faced with changing curriculum and instructional strategies. For me and my wonderful third graders, one of the biggest shifts has been the level of reading that is now involved in math instruction. We are seeing math skills presented differently than the way we learned them. Students are being asked to solve math problems in the context of stories rather than worksheets full of basic algorithms.

Out With The Old

For teachers, this means retraining our brains to prepare, plan, and execute math lessons differently than we have before. We have to think of our math block as an extension of our reading block. We need to spend time helping students learn how to interpret mathematical text and use stamina to take apart word problems using reading comprehension strategies. In addition to understanding the four operations, they’re searching for clue words, applying important information, and discerning the process they need to use without it being stated for them. This can provide amazing learning opportunities as well as challenges for both teachers and students. At first, you may need to do some vocabulary front-loading and reinforcement, but once your students develop the habit of searching for the “meaning in the math”, you will be amazed at the conversations you hear as they solve problems on their own!

Discussions and Problem-Solving

Those of us who consider ourselves “math people” may look at the necessary changes as fighting an uphill battle. Many of our students come to us with low reading skills, making the task even more difficult. We are focused on making sure they understand the basic math- computation and procedure. However, if we want our students to develop a conceptual understanding, we need to promote discussions about problem-solving in our classrooms. Word problems are a great way to do that! Even simple mathematical text can provide layers of information for students to pull apart and analyze. This also provides a great opportunity for partner and group work- something we are always looking to incorporate into our classes. The extra reading practice that students get- without even realizing it- is an added bonus!

Are you noticing this reading-heavy trend in your math classes? What can you do, as the teacher, to help strengthen your students’ reading skills while teaching your math standards? Instead of looking at the downsides and challenges, try viewing it as an opportunity to promote math conversations and help your students put their ELA skills to work!

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