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

Making Connections

Visualizing

Visualizing

Inferring

Inferring

Determining Importance

Determining Importance

Synthesizing

Synthesizing

Monitoring and Repairing Comprehension

Monitoring and Repairing Mathematical Thinking

Questioning

Questioning

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