Close this search box.

Literacy: The Math Teacher’s Thorn

20150814_154738Everybody who knows me will tell you that my specialty is mathematics. Well with the implementation of the new math standards sometimes I don’t feel like the math teacher I feel like I have turned into the reading teacher. Like me I am certain that many math teachers are feeling the pressure to include literacy strategies in their math lessons.  I’m sure most curriculum leaders would say that this is normal because the new math standards promote content literacy. I do agree that this is true. The question that I always ask is how to can math teacher implement literacy strategies and still teach their content?

This year I am faced with this challenge because I am teaching 4 sections of 5th grade math to ELL students. I have taught ELL students before but the difference was I had a strong literacy support from the English teacher on my grade level.

Well, I have come to terms with the loss of that support and I have decided to take control of the situation. When I taught in Louisiana I attended training on the Singapore math strategies. The problem solving strategy that the trainers talked about was Read Draw Write.Beginning of Math Interactive Notebook_Page_5 I fell in love with this strategy because it included a written component for math. When I moved back to Texas I used Read Draw Write with my 1st graders. They absolutely loved it because they were able to practice reading and draw their math tool in the draw section and write a sentence.  RDW works because I combined the  C.U.B.E.S. problem solving strategy with RDW to make it more explicit and less implicit for my students. My version of RDW also guides the students thinking as they apply the strategy to each problem.

Some of the problem solving improved but I realized that this would not be enough because the more complex word problems were still a huge issue.
RDW 3rd Grade After realizing that I had been trained in Reciprocal Teaching I decided to research how to modify this comprehension strategy so that I could use it to help my students comprehend word problems. So this school year I will use Reciprocal Teaching to help my students to dig deeper into the read part of RDW so that they can fully understand what the problem is asking them to do. This process will begin with setting up our interactive notebooks using the interactive notebook starter pack for RDW that I created.

I’m sure many math teachers say that they don’t teach reading and teaching math is hard enough, but I believe that the benefits are worth the time and effort. As a math teacher I understand that it sucks that we have to teach literacy and not just numbers but teaching literacy is not just the reading teacher’s responsibility it’s everybody’s job.




I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me


Join our free resource library for free math instruction lesson plans and materials.