Why our Students Can’t Read a Math Textbook

Wh? ?ur Students ??n’t Read ? Math Textbook

Most Algebra ? students us? th??r math textbook f?r ? single purpose, ? source f?r homework problems. ??m? math instructors ?sk th??r students t? read th??r book ?s ??rt ?f th??r assignment, m?st d? n?t! Instructors kn?w students find th? task ?f reading th??r math textbook ? difficult ?n?, f?r s?m? ?n impossible ?n?. ?h?r? ?r? specific math reading skills th?t ?r? d?ff?r?nt fr?m ordinary reading skills ?nd w? ?r? n?t teaching ?ur students t? identify ?nd us? math-reading skills. ?h? purpose ?f th?s article ?s two-fold: (1) identify f?v? differences b?tw??n math reading skills ?nd ordinary reading skills, ?nd (2) discuss wh?t sh?uld b? d?n? t? help students read th??r math textbook.

1. Reading speed: Suppose ??u ?r? reading ? novel ?nd find ? word th?t ??u d?n’t understand. D? ??u g?t ??ur dictionary, search f?r th? meaning ?f th? word ?nd write s?m? notes r?g?rd?ng th? meaning? Readers d?n’t expect th? unknown meaning ?f ?n? word t? spoil th? plot th? novel. Wh?n students ?r? reading ? math book ?nd find ? key word th?t ?s unknown, ? lack ?f understanding ?f th? key word m?? spoil th??r success ?n th? problems ?t th? ?nd ?f th? s??t??n. ?n fact ?t m?? spoil th? plot ?f th? s??t??n ?nd ??ss?bl? th? plot ?f th? entire chapter! Ordinarily ? proficient reader ?s ?ls? ? fluent reader. ?n mathematics, ? sufficient reader ?s ?ls? ? deliberate reader. Y?u m?? h?v? t? read ? passage s?v?r?l times. Y?u must search f?r th? meaning ?f ???h key word utilizing ? math textbook.

2. Reading directionality: Fr?m early learning, th? concept ?f print directionally f?r reading ?s taught fr?m left t? r?ght. Wh?n reading math ??u d?n’t ?lw??s read fr?m left t? r?ght, ?n fact ??u m?? h?v? t? resist th? urge t? read fr?m left t? r?ght. Consider th? math expression: 3 + 2 ? 4

Reading fr?m left t? r?ght: 3 + 2 ? 4 = 5 ? 4 =20

Reading mathematically: 3 + 2 x 4 = 3 + 8 = 11

Notice ??u g?t ? completely d?ff?r?nt result wh?n ??u read fr?m left t? r?ght compared w?th reading mathematically. ?n th?s case ??u, ??u must resist th? urge t? read fr?m left t? right.

3. Read w?th pencil ?nd paper: Reading w?th pencil ?s ? math reading skill th?t ?s critical t? problem solving. ?h?s skill helps students m?k? ? connection b?tw??n th? g?v?n ?nf?rm?t??n ?nd wh?t th? problem ?s ?sk?ng th?m t? find. ??n? word problems h?v? hidden ?nf?rm?t??n, wh??h ?s ?nf?rm?t??n ?n? n??ds t? solve th? problem but ?s n?t g?v?n ?n th? problem. ? student n??ds t? read w?th pencil ?nd paper wh?n searching th??r textbook f?r hidden ?nf?rm?t??n. Reading w?th pencil ?nd paper ?s ?n? ?f th? m?st ?m??rt?nt math reading skills.

4. Symbol interpretation: ??n?? mathematics ?s ? symbolic language ?n? must b? careful h?w th?? interpret math symbols, th? meaning ?f ? symbol depends ?n th? placement ?f th? symbol. Students incorrectly interpret exponent notation ?nd m?k? common math errors ?v?r ?nd ?v?r ?g??n. ??n? students m?k? errors wh?n th?? enter symbols ?nt? ? calculator, b???us? th?? d?n’t differentiate b?tw??n ? division symbol ?nd th? symbol f?r ? fraction bar. Wh?n faced w?th ?n incorrect answer th?? lack th? math reading skills t? find ?nd correct th? error.

5. Independent learning: ? student must possess good math reading skills ?n order t? b???m? ?n independent learner ?f mathematics. ?s technology advances, ?t plays ? larger roll ?n education; m?r? students ?r? t?k?ng online math courses ?s?????ll? ?t th? college level. ? b?l??v? ??u n??d t? b? ?n independent learner t? succeed wh?n t?k?ng ?n online course. ?? b???m? independent learners, ?ur math students n??d t? read math w?th understanding. ?n addition, th?? sh?uld b? ?bl? t? find ?nd eliminate common math errors.

If w? expect ?ur math students t? improve th??r problem solving skills ?nd b???m? independent learners, ?ur mathematics curriculum n??ds ? n?w emphasis. ?ur math Ireland education programs n??d t? train prospective math teachers h?w t? teach th??r students t? read math w?th understanding. Identifying math reading skills ?nd h?w t? apply th?s? skills sh?uld b? ?n integral ??rt ?f ?ur math curriculum.