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Math and Literacy
Literacy is a necessary part of our lives today. If one cannot read or write, one cannot function as a member of society. Because of this, it is imperative to integrate literacy into as many parts of the curriculum as possible. Fortunately, math lends itself well to both reading and writing activities.
Math and Reading
Reading aloud to students can not only familiarize them to new varieties of literature, but it can also help them hone their listening and concentration skills. Choosing books that contain mathematical content can introduce students to math concepts in an engaging manner. One such series is Stuart J. Murphy's
book. Murphy's books cover mathematical material for children ages 3 and up, but are most suitable for primary grades. Check your local library or bookstore for other books that combine math with literacy.
Story problems have been a part of math curriculum for a long time. They already naturally combine literacy with mathematics. To further extend the literary merit of story problems, have high expectations for students. Include higher-level vocabulary in the story problems, but explicitly teach the definitions. Form story problems around concepts you're teaching in other content areas to further integrate the lessons. Inquiry-based story problems could even be implemented to extend students' critical thinking while also improving literacy skills.
Math and Writing
Reflection is an important part of the learning experience. It allows students to review what they have just been taught. When the reflection process is recorded in writing, it provides a record to which a student can return at a later date, if necessary. One method of recording student reflection is using math journals. According to Bay-Williams, Karp, and Van De Walle, "[j]ournals are a way to make written communication a regular part of doing mathematics" (85). By including journal-writing (or any sort of written reflection) as closure to each math lesson, teachers give students the opportunity to better remember the lesson at the same time as perpetuating the idea that writing is important. As well, students should be expected to give reasons for their answers to problems. They could either include a brief paragraph along with their answers, or use their journals to record their reasoning.
One great way to begin math lessons is with a freewrite. These get students thinking about a certain term or topic, so that discussion later will come more easily to them. Have students write down everything that comes to mind -- without stopping until the time is up -- and they will be able to generate ideas for exploration. This gives students who may be otherwise uncomfortable in class discussions "a script to support their contributions" (Bay-Williams, Karp, and Van De Walle 84).
Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site
-- A comprehensive list of various articles and children's books with mathematical themes
Writing in Mathematics
-- some ideas for how to incorporate writing activities into math lessons
Children's Trade Books in Math
-- a list of children's trade books that center around math concepts
(Integrating Math! wiki by Betsy Jacobson, 2011)
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