Making Math Meaningful through Reading and Writing

Math class? You bet.
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Reading and writing with math enables students to process real-world applications of math. Similar to mathematics, reading involves two parts of a thinking process: the transfer of information to the reader and the comprehension of that information on the part of the reader. Writing engages both hemispheres of the brain, as the learner generates ideas and organizes them. Writing allows students to clarify their thoughts and allows teachers insight into students’ thinking, making it valuable in the math classroom.


Getting Started

Consider the learning goals for your students, then choose the type of reading and/or writing activity that meets the goals. For improved comprehension, you might have students write about a math concept you’ve introduced to them, asking them to write an explanation of the concept to a friend. For helping students understand real-world applications of math, you might ask students to read current news articles involving math and share a summary with a classmate.

Implementing reading and writing encourages students who enjoy reading and writing more than the computational process of math and increases deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.

Educational Connections

Ways to use reading and writing in math class:

Writing prompts:

  • Thoughts, concerns, feelings regarding math class
  • Journaling
  • Math autobiography
  • Letter to the teacher
  • Freewriting
  • Math concept or process
  • Effort in class, goals, study habits

Use current articles demonstrating mathematics embedded in real life:

  • Provide students with articles, have them create magazine of excerpts from articles
  • Ask students to find articles on their own including real-world math; students can choose the topic based on their interests
  • Students read the article, summarize it, and compile it into an online magazine

Assessment can be completed via a writing rubric that includes effective communication and content understanding


Example: Student-produced Math Magazine Publication:

Reading and Writing in the Mathematics Classroom:

Reading and Writing in Math Class:

Benefits in Explaining One’s Math Thinking

"It’s hard to get kids in the habit of talking about how they are thinking about a problem when they’ve had many years of instruction that focused on getting the 'right answer.' That’s why educators are now trying to get students in the habit of explaining their thinking at a young age." — Source: Mind/Shift

Continue reading the full post for examples, tips, and classroom video footage.

Image Source: EdTechTeacher

Play Is the Beginning of Knowledge

Play Promotes Learning

UPDATE: There is debate to whom this quote should be attributed.

21st Century Skills: It’s More Than Just Technology

“Given the growing ubiquity of [technology] in schools, as well as the increasing numbers of educators advocating for their use, it can seem as though education may have reached a tipping point when it comes to improving students’ 21st-century skills. According to the Partnership for 21st Century skills, these can be categorized as the 4Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration.” — Beth Holland

Beth goes on to share that she has started to worry about the growing presence of what she calls the Fake Cs.

Source: EdWeek

Journey from a Makerspace to a Maker District

This article shares the story of Albermarle County Schools’ experience integrating maker education throughout all the schools in the district. In particular, snapshots of Agnor Hurt Elementary and Albermarle High School are spotlighted. I recommend diving into this article and considering how Albermarle’s experience and ideas can impact your classroom, school, and district. Here are just two nuggets I gleaned from reading this.

“Making shouldn’t be isolated. We want to get away from that idea. Makerspaces and classrooms are one and the same.” — Andrew Craft, Elementary Teacher

“When people make, they get back to the basics of who they are as humans. Making puts the learner at the center of the work — and when that happens with our kids, the content makes sense to them.” — Pam Moran, Superintendent


Thoughts about Students Who Are Off-Task

What If Students Assigned Their Own Homework?

“Some may say homework is good practice, and practice makes perfect. Others insist homework is unproductive and pointless.

“What benefit is there in doing 20 of the same type of math problem? If students didn’t understand the lesson from the day, not understanding 20 problems may make them feel that math is inaccessible. This is how children begin to struggle in math and decide it’s not for them. And if they did understand the lesson, repeating similar problems is pointless. Worse still, students begin to believe math is boring, irrelevant, a set of mundane rules, and maybe even a waste of time.

“What if homework could be a means for promoting self-efficacy, agency, and motivation to learn? Teaching students to actively pursue knowledge and see it as valuable is critical to their success both in and out of school.” — Margie Pearse, Edutopia

Continue reading the full blog post.

Image Source: Learning & the Brain