Integrate Math and Literacy to Improve Student Comprehension

Smart schoolgirl doing her homework with digital tablet at home. Child using gadgets to study. Education and learning for kids.You may find your students tend to have innate abilities that align with analytical and fact based skills such as math and science. You may have other students that seem to have a predisposition to more creative skills such as art or writing. For example, you may have a student who writes gorgeous prose but struggles with long division, or another student who won the science fair but seems befuddled by watercolor techniques. If you see the value in challenging traditional modalities to produce the highest quality student outcomes, then you’ll love this idea: eliminate the artificial barrier between the creative brain and the fact-oriented brain, and bring literacy techniques into the math classroom to improve student success. Here’s how.

6 Ways to Blend Math and Literacy into Your Lesson Plans

  1. Incorporate More Word Problems into Your Curriculum. To boost students’ reading and computational skills, incorporate more word problems into math homework and in-class assignments. In addition to asking students to calculate the mathematical answer, ask them to write a sentence summarizing the solution relative to the posed scenario. The process of both reading and writing will reinforce comprehension and situational relevance.
  2. Ask Students to Present and Explain Their Work. Students can benefit by developing their reading and writing skills while incorporating verbal communication skills as well. Pick a few students during each in-class assignment to demonstrate to the class how they completed the problem. Encourage them to walk the students through the process they followed to obtain the final answer.
  3. Ask Students to Provide a Written Explanation of How They Solved a Math Problem. Choose a question on homework (maybe a bonus question) and ask students to describe in sentences how they arrived at their final answer. Not only will thinking through their work helped solidify mathematical concepts, but it will also allow them to practice their communication skills and sentence structure.
  4. Teach Math Vocabulary. Multiple. Hexagon. Descending. Expression. Inverse. Students attempting to learn math concepts also need to learn associated terminology. As part of homework assignments and quizzes, ask students to describe the answers to math vocabulary words to reinforce concepts and encourage the extra practice of critical literacy skills.
  5. Encourage Students to Take Notes During Class. Students will benefit not only from transcribing problem sets that you review during class but from summarizing in words what you describe in your lectures as problem-solving processes and concepts.
  6. Describe Concepts in Pairs. As a structured team activity, ask students to describe concepts to one another, such as how to complete a long-division problem, or what is an inverse fraction. Not only will students experience team learning, but they will also have an opportunity to test their knowledge and comprehension.

Literacy is one of the most critical skills that youth will learn during their academic years. By reinforcing reading, writing, and verbal communication skills in the classroom, you widen students’ comprehension of concepts and allow them to sharpen their creative and analytical skills. The result will be students who are more confident and capable in both areas of academics—and most likely more engaged in your classroom too.


A child enjoying her bookRelated PLS Online Course:
Foundations of Literacy: Beginning Reading™

How do students learn to read and what is the relationship between language acquisition and reading? In this course, you’ll develop strategies to help students improve reading skills, establish reading levels, and text readability levels can be a challenge in addition to addressing multicultural and diverse students within this realm.

You’ll also discover:

  • Techniques of phonological awareness.
  • How to decode words with phonics.
  • Sight words, vocabulary, and word identification skills.
  • Context clues.
  • Comprehension of narrative texts.
  • Comprehension of expository texts.
  • Achieving fluency and understanding the needs of multicultural and diverse populations.

Foundations of Literacy is best for early and mid-career educators. It’s especially beneficial for Pre-K teachers, elementary teachers, reading specialists and special education teachers. It is currently offered as an online course.

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