Learning, Math, Reading

Authentic Learning- Connecting Literacy to Mathematics

Authentic Learning

I have spent the last 3 days listening to, learning from, and devouring the words of great teachers.  Debbie Miller, Patrick Allan, and Penny Kittle have reminded me of the bliss that comes from teaching students how to read and write using authentic experiences with reading and writing.  Authentic moments where you connect the students to their inner reader by helping them find the texts that matter to them and engage them in ways that only powerful text can.  Authentic moments that connect them to their inner writer by standing on the shoulders of “beautiful words” from others like Sarah Kay, and writing about things that evoke their passions.  If I could take away one word…one message…one thought from these last three days it would be Authentic!!!

For these great teachers- Debbie, Patrick, and Penny authentic is about providing students with opportunities to engage in reading and writing in ways that are meaningful, interesting, and relevant to students as individuals. In their classrooms they provide students with time to connect with great books while they take the time to confer with students.  In writing they provide students with time to write as they themselves share their own writing both finished products and works in progress. This kind of teaching is not born from worksheets, packaged programs, and activities that do nothing more that fill the time.  It comes from relationships, sitting side by side with students, and taking to them about their lives as readers and writers.

These 3 days have provided me with time to think about what this could look like in mathematics.  Can we take these ideas and put them into our mathematics classrooms?  Can we help students connect as mathematicians who learn from the “beautiful” math of others?  Can we model our own mathematics work and how we engage in mathematics?  Can we provide students with time to actively engage in rich authentic mathematics that provokes thinking, and passion?  

This type of mathematics is about more than completing the worksheet, or the page in the textbook.  It is about fostering the conditions for student to become mathematicians who don’t just do math but think mathematically.  My mind is swimming with the possibilities of re-imagining what the Mathematics Workshop could look like so that it would foster mathematicians.  I think it is possible.

One thing is clear though.  The most important thing that we as teachers need is an unwavering belief that all kids are capable of becoming mathematicians and deserve the time to dig into authentic mathematical experiences.

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Math, Reading

Reading in Mathematics? Absolutely!!

Reading in Mathematics?  When I was a student in elementary school these two subjects were not only separate but almost complete opposite.  Today however, my perception has changed and I see more similarities between the two than differences.

First of all, there IS reading in mathematics…reading of textbooks, word problems, literature, the whiteboard…the ability to read supports the student’s ability to take in information, comprehend problems and creating meaning.

Secondly, reading at it’s very essence is thinking.  It is the interpretation of a set of symbols (letters and words), and using our understanding of the symbols to create meaning.  This process must involve thinking.  Likewise, mathematics is the interpretation of a set of symbols (numbers, objects, representations, letters, and words) to create meaning, and gain understanding.   This process must also involve thinking.   Since both subjects are looking to strengthen thinking it only makes sense that we use the strategies and supports for strengthen student thinking, and comprehension in reading to strengthen thinking and understanding in math.  Creating consistency between the strategies can foster students ability to make connections and allows them to build on an existing foundation within a new context.

In reading we use the Super 7 Reading Strategies to support thinking and comprehension.  In mathematics these same strategies can be built upon to support mathematical thinking comprehension.

Reading

Math

Making Connections

  • Text to Self
  • Text to Text
  • Text to World
Making Connections

  • Math to Self
  • Math to Math
  • Math to World
Visualizing

  • Creating a mental image to help construct meaning
Visualizing

  • Creating a mental image to help construct meaning
Inferring

  • Drawing conclusions
  • Making predictions
  • Reflecting on reading
Inferring

  • Constructing answers
  • Estimation
  • Reflecting on mathematical thinking
Determining Importance

  • Determining topic and main idea
  • Determining author’s message
  • Using knowledge of narrative or expository text features/structures
  • Determining relevance
Determining Importance

  • Determining what is given in the problem
  • Determining what we are being asked to discover
  • Using existing knowledge in mathematics to solve new problems
  • Determining relevance
Synthesizing

  • Reviewing, sorting and sifting through information leading to new insight as thinking evolves
Synthesizing

  • Reviewing, sorting and sifting through mathematical problems and information which leads to new insights in math
Monitoring and Repairing Comprehension

  • Monitoring understanding and knowing how to adjust when meaning breaks down
Monitoring and Repairing Mathematical Thinking

  • Monitoring understanding and knowing when to stop and adjust (when thinking breaks down)
  • Identifying where thinking broke down and trying another solution
Questioning

  • Clarifying meaning by asking questions before, during and after reading to deepen comprehension
Questioning

  • Clarifying mathematical thinking by asking questions before, during, and after solving problems to deepen understanding
  • Asking questions of others about their strategies for solving problems.

So next time you are explicitly teaching comprehension strategies to your students in reading consider the possibility of expanding on those strategies in mathematics.  As Maggie Siena  (2009) so eloquently puts it “we can become more effective teachers of mathematics by drawing from our successful experiences with teaching literacy.  It’s the art of lighting two candles with one flame” (p.2).

cc.- http://www.flickr.com/photos/steveritchie/6067642964/
cc.- http://www.flickr.com/photos/steveritchie/6067642964/

From Reading to MathSiena, M. (2009). From reading to math. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.