Questions and Answers from discussion with a Professional
by Kristine and John

These are some questions I had for a high school math teacher who responded with his opinions and ideas to aid in building literacy in Mathematics.

Usage of Math Texts

Is it more important to look at the examples, theorem, formulas, and supplements in the textbook or should the textbook be read in a formal way or have supplemental readings?

“I [the professional] think more than anything else, it is important to get students used to reading and interpreting word problems so that they become better problem solvers. Math is a tool for doing a job, however that tool is useless unless you can apply it to a real word situation. Also I think it is important for students to be able to get used to reading lessons in mathematics, because in the future in other classes and in the workplace often one needs to interpret reading involving mathematical or logical processes and that type of reading is different from what is taught in English classes.”

When to Start Using the Textbook

Should these skills for reading the mathematical textbook start at an early age or can they be picked up in later stages of their educations? How should the textbook be used to aid in this?

“I agree with you on using the textbook mainly for examples. However (in high school mostly) I think it would be good for them to get some practice reading it themselves to help get ready for college. Word problems on the other hand, I think should be worked on throughout the k-12 curriculum because being able to solve them comes by doing them. However the teacher needs to use good judgment because if they get to much at once they get frustrated and quit.”

Best Approaches to Reading the Textbook

What, in your opinion, is the best way to have students approach reading in their textbooks?

“I think the best thing to do is to mention the textbook as you go through a
new lesson and emphasize what is important so they know how to pick out the
key points when they read on their own. To a certain extent they need to
learn to read a math textbook by doing it themselves. I think it is good to
have the students read parts of the text in class, but usually when I do, it
is just a small part that has a key example or thought. The problem with
assigning them a passage to read for homework, is that unless you quiz them
on it they will not read it.”

Using Non-Fiction Books in Class

How do you feel about the use of non-fiction books as assignments in the class? (An example is Flatland which has to do with concepts in geometry)

“I have never assigned a book such as "Flatland" so I can't really say. My
guess is that it would interest a number of students who would otherwise
think that math is boring. It sounds like a good idea to me. The only
problem you may run in to is being able to cover everything that needs to be
covered in a particular course and the book also. However you
need to do things like that once and a while in order to reach all your

Advice for Future Educators Pertaining to Content Area Literacy

I asked my correspondent what the two most important pieces of advice he could give a future mathematics educator on the subject of content area reading.

The first thing he suggested was to incorporate some form of a vocabulary lesson, since math is a language unto itself and the language/vocabulary is not what one wants holding students back.
The next thing he suggested was to take some time out of class to demonstrate how to read the text and have them read the text in class so they have model of how to read a math text and know what is expected.

Working with Reading and Language Deficiencies

Working with Reading and Language Deficiencies

I asked my professional about some of the challenges associated with below average reading proficiency or limited English language abilities.

My profession said that while it helps that math has lots of symbols, it is still a challenge when it comes to application based problems. Some ways he suggested to adapt to this was to help them by having them look for key words when reading a problem and underlining them so they can keep track of them throughout the problem in order to help them recognize what the problem is asking.

The Affect of Electronic Based Mediums on Content Area Reading

I asked about the increased use of electronic resources in terms of content area literacy and their affect on teaching.

His opinion was that ensuring that students know how to navigate through these new mediums is becoming increasingly important because they are expected to have more and more skills in their professional life. For the most part the increased use of computers is a good thing because it allows for more students to become engaged in the material in a way that interests them and allows the teacher to go more in-depth on certain material.

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