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Literacy in Mathematics

I found it very interesting when I taught middle school and I had a principal who has never taught mathematics evaluate me. Every time I would have my evaluation there were basically two responses: the lesson was great or the lesson needed improvement. Both responses sometimes always showed that my evaluators did not understand the language of mathematics.

Math Literacy Components
Math Literacy Components

I’ve realized that educators that do not teach mathematics do not understand that math has its own language that does not follow the rules of text based subjects. So when math teachers are evaluated they often have concerns about their evaluations because the evaluator did not understand why the teacher taught the skill a certain way. When I teach math to my students my goal is to teach them how to be mathematically literate with that particular skill. That means that they are able to solve real-life problems and to justify and explain their method for solving the problem. Sometimes it is difficult to teach students to become mathematically literate because they are struggling readers. I often find myself asking the question how to I teach struggling readers to become mathematically literate when they are not proficient in literacy? The answer to my question is students must be proficient in literacy in order to become mathematically literate. This year my 3rd grade team and I have implemented a 30 minute phonics intervention for our whole grade level. Although it is too soon to say the impact that it is having on our student’s reading skills, we are beginning to see the students attempt to decode a word rather than to skip over unfamiliar words which causes a breakdown in comprehension.

Literacy in Mathematics
Literacy in Mathematics

The Common Core Standards promote literacy in mathematics. This shift has caused confusion among teachers and parents. Teachers and parents have been accustomed to students learning facts and solving problems with out having to justify and explain why their method is most efficient or effective for solving that particular problem. This can be a difficult shift especially for parents of students who generally do well academically. Parents and teachers have to remember if students are not able to explain and justify why they used a certain method to solve a problem then they have not truly learned the mathematics.

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