The Mathematics and Reading Connection. ERIC Digest.
by Balas, Andrea K.
A children's rhyme linked the domains of the three Rs-reading, 'riting
and 'rithmetic-long before the whole language philosophy or integrated
curriculum became focal points for educators. Letters, symbols, and numbers
are the primary methods of communication in the world. This includes the
universal sharing of ideas, concepts, data, and information. This common
role in society creates a natural connection for the integration of reading
and mathematics in the school curriculum.
Success in reading and mathematics is based on process skills that incorporate
the integration of contextual information and with prior knowledge to produce
meaning. The development of the skills involved in these domains could
be considered the four Cs: construction, collaboration, context, and communication.
Knowledge is actively constructed in each of these areas. In reading, letters
form words that symbolize objects, attributes or action. In mathematics,
numbers symbolize amounts, patterns or relationships. These words and numerical
expressions create a basis for additional focus or information processing.
This knowledge can be constructed and enhanced through collaboration with
others in the classroom or workplace. Knowledge is communicated with others
to share, compare and assess information.
WHICH STRATEGIES OF LEARNING LANGUAGE CAN BE APPLIED TO THE LEARNING
Jennie Bickmore-Brand (Bickmore-Brand, 1993) identifies seven language
learning strategies that can be applied to enhance the learning of mathematics.
*Creating a meaningful and relevant context for the knowledge, skills
and values of mathematics.
*Realizing the starting point of interest in mathematics is the knowledge
base of the student.
*Providing opportunities for the learner to see the skills, processes
and values of mathematics by the teacher's modeling.
*Continuing to build on the knowledge base and challenging the students-scaffolding.
*Facilitating the metacognition of the student by helping the student
identify the learning processes and how he or she learns.
*Assisting the learner to accept the responsibility for the construction
*Building a community of learners in a risk-free learning environment.
These strands should be interwoven into the classroom environment to
aid in the content, methodology, and assessment in mathematics. Bickmore-Brand
suggests that these steps will create a positive association with mathematics
and mathematical relevancy in society.
WHAT DOES THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OFMATHEMATICS SAY ABOUT
THE INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH OF TEACHING MATHEMATICS WITH READING?
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 1989) acknowledged
the integration between the domains of mathematics and reading with the
inclusion of Standard 2 "Mathematics as Communication" in the "Curriculum
and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics." The emphasis for the
grade groupings follows.
*Mathematics can be thought of as a language.
*Reading children's literature about mathematics, and eventually text
material, needs more emphasis in the K-4 curriculum.
*Children can meaningfully learn mathematics; teachers can help the
process by providing opportunities for them to communicate and to "talk
math" with their friends.
*Use connections to construct knowledge, learn alternative ways to think
about ideas, clarify thinking, and communicate about problems.
*Use the skills of reading, listening, and viewing to interpret and
evaluate mathematical ideas.
*Use of skills provides opportunities for interpretation of data and
statistics regarding social issues. In this manner, mathematics helps students
develop an understanding of the events in society.
The NCTM also acknowledges this linkage in its other publications, including
the 1995 Yearbook, "Connecting Mathematics across the Curriculum," and
the1996 Yearbook, "Communication in Mathematics K-12 and Beyond." The 1995
yearbook focuses on the connections of mathematics in all areas and all
levels of the school curriculum. It specifically addresses the topic for
elementary school curriculum in a chapter by David J. Whitin, "Connecting
Literature and Mathematics" who suggests that children's literature can
help students meaningfully connect their world to the world of mathematical
ideas. The 1996 Yearbook focuses on building a discourse community of meaningful
mathematical communication within classrooms and beyond. One of the sections
for such a changing paradigm is reading. Topics included for discussion
are the use of trade books, metaphorical thinking, reading to construct
meaning, and communicating mathematics through literature. The NCTM is
promoting collaboration of reading and mathematics.
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF READING ON MATHEMATICAL PROCESS AND SKILLS?
Reading provides both context and motivation for the mathematics students.
Reading from a text book, trade book, or newspaper article can provide
the students with a shared basis for receiving and sharing information.
Reading can supply a common setting, environment, and details for application
of students' mathematical skills. Reading provides an interesting context
that students can explore. This exploration can occur either in a group
with many students or with one student. In general, the integration of
math and reading creates a relevant context for the formal and abstract
The use of either fiction or non-fiction material can create the context
for discussion and set the stage for mathematical skills. The specific
areas may include:
*Posing questions in mathematics.
*Sequencing events in a story.
*Questioning and seeking additional information students would like
to know about a topic.
*Developing recording skills.
*Comparing and contrasting. For example, a Venn Diagram can be used
to compare and contrast different versions of the same story.
*Constructing charts and graphs to illustrate or determine the impact
*Counting through one-to-one correspondence.
*Predicting and hypothesizing. For example, examining stories for patterns
like this one: introduction, development of details and theme, climax,
*Validating or persuading, using data or details to determine and support
a particular position.
*Conferring with others to generate new knowledge or to confirm a position
on a topic.
WHAT IS MATHEMATICAL LITERACY?
With support for the connections between the strategies, processes,
and skills within the domains of reading and mathematics, can an argument
be made for mathematical literacy? David Whitin, Heidi Mills and Timothy
O'Keefe present an argument for such a concept in "Living and Learning
Mathematics, Stories and Strategies for Supporting Mathematical Literacy."
The authors maintain that students become mathematically literate the same
way they become literate in reading. Mathematics is more than numbers just
as reading is more that letters. Literacy involves placing numbers into
meaningful context in daily living. It is demonstrated by students putting
numbers to good use within the structure of their lives, their stories
and their literature. Students work together, observing and investigating
uses of numbers, asking questions, and planning strategies, to find the
answers. These are the kinds of activities that can create and support
the environment for mathematical literacy.
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National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989). "Curriculum and
Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics." Reston, VA: Author.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1995). "Connecting mathematics
across the curriculum (1995 Yearbook)." Reston, VA: Author.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1996). "Communications
in mathematics k-12 and beyond (1996 Yearbook)." Reston, VA: Author.
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. (1993). "Integrating Mathematics,
Science and Language: an instructional program (Volume 1)." Austin, TX:
Stephens, M., Waywood, A., Clark, D. & Izard, J (Eds.). (1993).
"Communicating Mathematics: perspectives from the classroom and current
research." Victoria, AU: The Australian Council for Educational Research
Whitin, D. J., Mills, H. & O'Keefe, T. (1990). "Living and Learning
Mathematics: stories and strategies for supporting mathematical literacy."
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
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