Adventures in Literacy Land: math

Showing posts with label math. Show all posts
Showing posts with label math. Show all posts

Math and Literacy Connection: Poetry

According to LaBonty and Danielson (2004), "reading and writing poetry about math involves students with listening, speaking, reading, and writing in order to develop and demonstrate an understanding of mathematical concepts and relationships."
Using poetry in math can develop an understanding of mathematical concepts and relationships. Visit this post on Adventures in Literacy Land to learn more.

Patterns are important in math as well as in poetry and both are dependent on students' skill with language (symbols/signs and verse/rhyme).  Poetry is an alternative vehicle for students to fine-tune their skills with the language of mathematics.  Reading and listening to poetry about math allows children to be immersed in the language of math.  Collaboratively writing poetry helps children function as "problem solvers rather than information receivers" (LaBonty and Danielson, 2004).

What does this look like in the classroom?

  • Lakeshore Learning provides a "read and respond" version of "Arithmetic" by Carl Sandburg
    • This would be a great beginning of the year activity to get students thinking about how they use math every day.
  • Using Shel Silverstein poems in math lessons from We Are Teachers
    •  "One Inch Tall" could be used to introduce the concept of an inch and what that measurement looks like in real life.  Then students can use the poem as a mentor text to write their poem using a different measurement (one centimeter, one meter, etc.).
    • Using the poem "Smart," you could see if students understand the difference between number of coins and the value of coins.
  • Illuminations lesson using "Shapes" by Shel Silverstein
    • Great to use in kindergarten after learning about all the shapes - read the poem out loud to the students and have them draw a illustration that depicts what is happening in the poem. Then students can discuss with each other what words/phrases in the poem helped them decide what to draw.
  • For any topic that you are teaching in math, students can write a poem that shows their understanding of the concept being learned.  I suggest only doing this after you have given students multiple examples of poetry (math and non-math related).
    • Each student can write a poem and they can be collected into one class book with a title that encompasses all the poems (for example:  Multiplication in Mrs. Wilson's Room or Quadrilaterals in My Life)
  • Looking for students to use mathematical terms but in a different way, you need to read this article about a collaboration between a high school math and English teacher - loved it! 
  • A second and third grade teacher used The Important Book as a mentor text to have students write about a geometry term.  This article "Mathematics and Poetry" details what she did.
If you missed previous posts in the Math and Literacy Connection Series, no fear, I have linked them for you:
  • January - introduction on why the connection is important and learn about the vocabulary strategy: word splash
  • February - teaching academic vocabulary in math using strategies from your literacy instruction
Next month I will continue the series with writing strategies that help students in math.

Math and Literacy Connection Series at Adventures in Literacy Land

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Math and Literacy Connection: Vocabulary

One of the big connections between math and literacy is teaching academic vocabulary.  Without understanding of key vocabulary in math, students will struggle with each concept.  Because a teacher cannot assume that students will automatically understand content vocabulary, the teacher needs to employ the vocabulary strategies used during literacy instruction to mathematics.

Mathematical literacy is dependent on vocabulary knowledge.  Many of the words have meanings in math that are different from the meanings in every day use.
  • Product
    • something that is manufactured for sale
    • number or expression resulting from the multiplication of two or more numbers or expressions
  • Mean
    • deliberately unkind
    • a number equal to the sum of a set of numbers divided by how many numbers are in the set (average)
Knowing a word is more than just knowing the definition, which means that looking up definitions in the dictionary/glossary is not an effective way to help students create a firm foundation.  A fellow instructional coach and I created an interactive vocabulary strategy to help our students.  We used this strategy in grades PK-12 in all subjects.

The strategy has five steps that are easy to follow and help you create a plan to teach vocabulary more explicitly.

  • Choose the Words
    • The goal of this step is to choose 3 words per topic that are the most important to understanding the concepts being taught.  They are "umbrella" words that other vocabulary would fall under during the study of that topic.
  • Introduce the Words
    • Introduce the words without directly telling students the definitions of the words.  Give clues about the words using images and objects associated with the word.
    • Have students infer the meaning of the word and write a description.  This description is a starting place for their understanding of the word and the description will be modified as they learn more.
  • Infer Meaning using Context Clues
    • Read aloud a passage that has the vocabulary words in context (from a novel, textbook, article, teacher-created paragraph, etc.)
    • Create a class chart with three columns:  word, text clues, inferred meaning.
  • Create a Graphic Representation
    • Model creating a graphic representation (see FREEBIE below for template for this step) of one of the words making sure to think out loud for students about why the graphic was chosen.
    • This is a great step for students to do in groups.
  •   Interact with the Words
    • After being explicitly taught the vocabulary with the above steps, students will begin to interact with the words in a variety of ways:  graphic organizers, games, word association activities, etc. (see FREEBIE for ideas on how to do this)
One last thought (and a freebie) before you go:

CLICK HERE to download this strategy and CLICK HERE to download an example way to interact with the words - Word Association.

What do students think about this strategy?  Here are some direct quotes from eighth grade students:
  • "I think vocabulary strategies this year are a lot stronger than ones last year.  Now I can understand what words mean without struggling to memorize a definition from a dictionary.  Also, things are easier to sink in now."
  • "I love doing the skits and pictures, and I also love Pictionary and the clues.  Last year I didn't like learning vocabulary so much, but this year it's easier to learn the words when we're having fun."
  • "I love doing vocabulary this way instead of just looking up the definition the old way where you just copy out of a glossary.  It was much easier to learn this way."
If you missed the first post in the Math and Literacy Connection Series, go back to read about why the connection is important and learn about another vocabulary strategy - Word Splash.

Next month I will continue the series with poetry...math and poetry make a fantastic connection.

Math and Literacy Connection Series at Adventures in Literacy Land

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Making the Math and Literacy Connection

Two years ago, I connected with some online reading friends and this blog was the result.  The journey has been fantastic.  In celebration of our blog birthday this month, we are reacquainting each of you with our authors and introducing new authors.  We are also doing an awesome giveaway at the end of the month, so keep checking back for more information.
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Last school year, I entered a new realm in my educational life as a math/science instructional coach after being a literacy coach for six years.  I continued to blog here to keep current on what works in literacy instruction.  This year I am excited to focus on blogging about making the literacy connection in math.
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Using the strategies students learn in reading during math, they can become better mathematicians, so they won't have to "chuckle about not being good at math."

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Each month, I will tackle a different topic that will help you make stronger connections between your math and literacy instruction, which will in turn help your students become more confident readers and mathematicians.

As a preview of what is to come, we will kick things off by talking about how to use a common literacy strategy in math:  word splash.

Word splash is a comprehension and vocabulary strategy where words and short phrases about a concept are "splashed" on the whiteboard, Smart Board, windows, or a large piece of paper.  Students create statements that connect at least two words/phrases as predictions about the concept(s) they are about to study.

What I love about using a word splash is it connects the beginning of the lesson to the end of the lesson.  Students make predictions.  You teach them about the concept (in this example - introduction to fractions).  Finally students come back to their predictions and determine which were correct and which were misconceptions.  To turn it into a summarizing activity, you can add some additional words learned through the lesson (examples:  numerator, denominator, thirds, halves) and have students create summary statements (or paragraphs) that connect as many words as possible in a meaningful way.

Word splash is an easy way to facilitate a discussion with students and providing them scaffolds to use the correct terminology.  Word splash is also a great way to give a pre-assessment and post-assessment without giving a "test."

Want to take it to the next level?  Have students create their own word splashes.  OR get the students moving.  Write each word on an index card (or name tag) and give one to each student (or place in random parts of the room).  Give students the opportunity to mingle and talk to each other about what they know about the words for five minutes.  Then have students go back to their seats to write connecting statements individually.

What are the connections to literacy?  So, so many:  making predictions, making connections, vocabulary, writing statements that require students to think about similarities and differences, summarizing.

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MathStart Books

Hello! It's Jen from An Adventure in Literacy. I'm here today to share a series of books from my favorite math author, Stuart J. Murphy.

Stuart J. Murphy has 63 books in the MathStart series. If you are unfamiliar with his books you MUST visit his MathStart website to check them out. The MathStart books cover a variety of math topics in three different levels (ages 3+, 6+, 7+).  All of Stuart J. Murphy's books are amazing because they provide eye catching visuals to help students better understand math concepts. He also gets story ideas from kids to help relate math to real life situations. There is a great "Meet the Author" video about him on

Each of the MathStart books has two pages at the end with activity suggestions. These activities are meant to reinforce the featured math skills from the stories. You can also download his ideas and activities from the MathStart site.

If you're teaching a certain math skill you can find the appropriate books listed by skills and standards under the "Books" tab. There is also a math bibliography that includes additional math books by other authors for each skill.

On Family Math Night a few years ago I did a Stuart J. Murphy session. I briefly shared his website highlighting some of the family resources. The majority of the time families could read his books together. Everyone seemed to enjoy the session and the children were super excited to share some of the books they had read in class. Plus, it was super easy to prepare for the session. The MathStart website has some great resources, articles, and handouts for parents if you are planning a math night.

Stuart J. Murphy says it best with his motto "Math=Fun!". I totally agree and am so glad to have his great books to add to my math lessons. Do you have a favorite math book or math author? Let us know in the comments so we can check it out!


Writing Across the Curriculum

Hi everyone! It's the end of the year- can you believe it? I want to wish you Happy New Year from everyone here at Adventures in Literacy Land! I'm Bex from Reading and Writing Redhead and I am stopping by to talk about writing across the curriculum.

Whether you are a reading specialist, a literacy coach, or a classroom teacher, you know writing is a major part of all of the content areas. I am currently working as a second grade teacher and we use the Everyday Math series. All of you Everyday Math teachers know that this program is language - heavy. Just this fall, we got the "beta" version of the new edition. This new edition is very, very writing heavy. There is a ton of work relating to the standard of mathematical practice for explaining your mathematical thinking which is part of the CCSS. Not only are students expected to explain their mathematical thinking in writing (not just during class discussions) from the very beginning of the year, but they are often given mathematical situations with fictional students and they have to explain how the fictional student may have thought through the problem. There are also some problems in the challenge section of the quizzes where they have to act as the teacher. Students have to read a math problem, look at what a fictional student did, and explain why he is correct or why he is wrong, and if so, how he could fix the problem.

Phew! I am exhausted just talking about it. Teaching it is no cakewalk and it has been challenging for the students. I am interested to see what happens next year when I get students who have been exposed to this new edition in first grade. 

Blogger and writer Deva Delporto said, "The Common Core requires students to think and learn in a much deeper way, and one of the best ways to facilitate that deeper learner is to get kids writing. Not just in English class, but all the time." Steve Peha, founder of Teaching that Makes Sense, commented, "The Common Core and its associated tests set a much higher bar  for student are going to have to be much better writers than they ever have been before. Writing regularly in all subject areas, but especially in math, science, and social studies, is going to be crucial".

What's my  take on why writing in math (and other) class is important? I like to think beyond the Common Core and beyond tests and school. When students grow up and begin looking for a career and success in their chosen field,  think about what they will need to succeed. Writing is one key to success with social media - which isn't going away anytime soon. Plus, if she is trying to convince their boss to give her new idea a chance, she is  going to need to explain it either in person or in writing why her idea will work. She will need to be proficient at explaining her thinking in writing. I also strongly feel that many of our current students will become entrepreneurs and/or be self-employed. In order to "sell" his new product to customers, or to investors, he will need once again to be able to clearly and thoroughly explain it.

So, let's talk about writing in math class. Why is it important? How can you help your students (and you)?
  • When students write in math class, they use higher-order thinking skills to come up with mathematical explanations that support their thinking.
  • When students write in math class, they are forced to really reflect on how math works, and not just (like I did) memorize the steps to solve a problem without having any clue as to how or why it works.
  • Writing in any subject area gives students more math practice, and more practice leads to improvements in writing. 
  • It gives teachers a glimpse into how students think about math. This gives us more information about our students and can inform our instructional decisions.
  • It gives teachers a way to communicate with parents about how their child is doing in math and about their progress in math.
  • It tells us if they understand and can use math terms.
  • It helps us see common errors in students' work and enables us to address them with the whole group.
Let's take a look at some student's writing in math and talk about how to support our students as they write in math, science, and social studies (I wish I had more examples of student writing but I did not come up with my topic until I was already home on vacation so I had to go with what I happened to have at home).

First, in math class, I have to say: practice, practice,  practice. Almost every day we do something like this as a class. The students also have a problem like this on many of their math journal pages. I also have incorporated rubrics to help students see their progress. The rubric needs to be in kid friendly language. We also look at exemplars so student can see different types of writing and can see what a successful explanation might look like. 

Check out this sample, the one for part C. He explains how he solved 9-7 by using both making a 10 and by working backward. To solve 9-7, he thought that 7 + 3 = 10, and he knows 9 is close to 10. His explanation gets a little confusing halfway through but it is clear he knows 7 + 3 can't equal 9, so to adjust for the fact 9 is 1 less than 10, his answer must be 2. (7 + 2 = 9). I know he understands the math but could use some help finessing his answer. We might try to write an explanation together that is a little more succinct.

Here is a different student's explanation for the same problem. He makes more connections, stating all the steps  that got him to the solution, and he is doing a nice job of starting out his answer by telling that he figured out that 9-7 = 2 because... Some students don't state which problem they figured out, leaving me to have to guess if they are talking about a or b. 

Here is an example of when a student has to read a sample problem and think about how a fictional student may have figured it out. This student did a fairly good job at explaining that 8 + 2 = 10 is going be the first step and then they need to add 2 more to get the answer to 8 + 4. I would probably push her a little to explain more about why she added 2 more (the 4 in 8 +4 is 2 more than the 2 in 8+2) but I gave her credit for this answer -it was only October! Everyone has to start somewhere.

I'm not going to lie, it is hard to me to explain and talk about these second graders' math writing. I think that I would benefit from working with a math coach myself or to do some professional development with an expert (can we get Marilyn Burns to come to my school?) .
Time after time, I have seen Marilyn Burn's book Writing in Math Class, as the essential go-to resource for teachers who need to teach students how to explain their mathematical thinking in math class. I guess it is time for me to go shopping! Click on any of the book covers to get more details or learn how to buy them. 

As for writing in science and social studies, I have a few social studies examples. I would not call the second grade social studies curriculum terribly interesting (basically geography and immigration) but we do learn about different holidays around the world. I like to incorporate narrative and opinion writing into social studies. Of course we did this assignment in December, so you know what holiday everyone wrote about...


One thing that I think is important in writing across the curriculum is to hold students to the same standards as they use during writing workshop or language arts. The checklist is the same we use during L.A. and I routinely send students back to edit writing in the content areas when they have no capital letters, punctuation errors, etc. A few things I am going to incorporate to help my students with their writing this spring: make them read their writing aloud to me or a peer before saying, "I'm done". They catch so many errors by doing that; having them then transition to reading it to themselves when they are done; try peer editing of writing in the content areas; edit backward- i.e. cover up all of the words except the last one, check for spelling and other errors of just that word, then work backwards, one word at a time, finally checking the entire sentence, then doing the last word of the previous sentence, and so on and so forth.

I am by no means an expert in writing across the curriculum, but I have been working hard to help my students with it this year. What are your favorite tips for helping your students? What is hardest for you? Please comment and let us know!