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.



Making Connections

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

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

  • Creating a mental image to help construct meaning

  • Creating a mental image to help construct meaning

  • Drawing conclusions
  • Making predictions
  • Reflecting on reading

  • 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

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

  • 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

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

  • 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).


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

Math, Reading

My 10 Favorite Math Picture Books : #PB10for10

Once again this year I am excited to be participate in the August 10 for 10 Picture Books blogging event.  An event where educators share their “must have” children’s picture books with each other virtually.  Last year I really enjoyed reading the blogs and creating a wish list of books, many of which have become my new favorites.  As a primary teacher (who is currently working as a consultant) picture books have always been at the heart of my classroom. I adore children’s book, the stories, the illustrations, the way they captivate the readers, young and old alike.  This year I decided to add a twist to my post and focus on picture books that can be used to support mathematics education.  As an educator, who has a passion for mathematics education, I find that using picture books to introduce and explore concepts is a great way to enhance learning and foster connections.  Plus I love the challenge of taking a book and looking at it through a different lens… a mathematical lens.  In so doing I often “see” more within the pages of the book then I did when I only used my language lens.  Often a book that I never thought of has mathematical comes alive with mathematical concepts and connections when I just shift my perspective.  So after careful deliberation here is my 2011 edition of my 10 favorite Math picture books.

1. Actual Size by Steve Jenkins– The beautiful illustrations in this book are the actual size of the animal or part of the animal being described. This makes this book a great starting point for discussions about measurement, comparisons, estimations, and scale.   I find that students love to compare themselves to the animals in the story and really get a sense of how big or how small they are.  Carole Saundy- Fullerton has created some wonderful task cards and activities that can expand the learning opportunities in the book. 

2. How Big is it? by Ben Hillman– I love how this book allows the reader to compare two objects to get a sense of how big something really is!  This is a great book to teach size, and  measurement.  Students can look at Ben Hillman’s pictures and then, armed with a digital camera, go out and create How Big is it? pictures of their own.  Student created pictures in addition to the images in the book would support an increased understanding of proportional reasoning.     

3. Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner– This is a classic story that students are sure to be familiar with.  It also provides an opportunity to show students how you can look at a classic story from a different perspective…mathematically.  Students can use bear manipulatives to represent each bear in the story – big for Papa Bear, medium for Mama Bear and small for Baby Bear.   Then they can use play dough to create bowls, and cube-a-links to create chairs and beds that would be proportionate to each bear.  This book leads right into lessons about size, proportions, patterning and the number 3.  

4. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes– Chrysanthemum is a book about a little mouse who is teased about the length of her very unique name.  Not only is this an amazing story to initiate conversations about teasing and self-esteem it also provides an opportunity for students to think about their names mathematically.  Students can compare lengths of names, as well as adding up the letters in their name to figure out what it adds up to (A=1, B=2, c=3, D=4…).  This can also be a starting point for other problem solving activities such as finding a word or words with specific values. 

5. Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young– I love using this book to talk about the power of patient problem solving and collaboration.  Each mouse working on their own was only able to come up with one piece of the problem…What is the strange something?  By working together, and  comparing thinking the mice were able to uncover the answer and solve the problem. 

6. One Stuck Duck by Phyllis Root-  This is a much-loved book of my own children as it has such a catchy rhythm to it.  I love using this book to teach students the concept of  growing patterns as on each page the number of animals goes up by one.  In addition to growing patterns this book provides many opportunities to explore numbers to 10,  and one to one correspondence.  Extension activities such as addition, subtraction and graphing are also possible.

7. Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt–  I had this book on my list last year and could not leave it out this year.  Not only is it a witty (and funny) book it also has a strong math connection…the measurement of time and problem solving.  Students can talk about how much time has passed through out the story as well as Scaredy’s careful problem solving and reasoning as he tries to work through his fear of the unknown. 

8. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Williams– I love this book and it’s links to math are very strong.  Students can explore the idea of constructing an argument with logical reasoning as well as critiquing the reasoning of others.   Students can inquiry about the questions What is a good argument and how can I create a good argument to support my thinking in math?

9. The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns– In this book students can explore reasons why triangles and quadrilaterals are useful in the world.  This is a great way to support students making Math to World connections with literature and geometry. 

10. Rooster’s Off to See the World by Eric Carle– For me no list is complete without an Eric Carle book and so I end my list with Rooster Off to See the World.    This book is a wonderful way to explore the concepts of counting, addition and graphing with students. So many great mathematical possibilities exist in this classic story. 

So there you have it… my list of 10 Mathematical Picture Books!  I hope some may become your favorites as well.