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Do you ever wonder about the reading skills of your students? See the archived version of the Reading Mathematics is Different webinar held on September 30. The webinar focused on the current interest in adolescent literacy and how literacy impacts mathematics education. We examined how mathematics symbols, vocabulary, and content presentation can create roadblocks to students’ mathematics understanding. Go to Reading Mathematics is Different to see the recorded webinar and learn more. Check out the list of helpful online resources found with the archived webinar. Thank you to everyone who joined us during the session!

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Comment by Judy Spicer on October 5, 2009 at 10:02am
Thank you, Mary. The article beautifully highlights several ideas from the webinar, points to other student populations we need to address, and the need for cross-discipline communication. The webinar includes 5 specific strategies that teachers can use to help students learn vocabulary as a way to understand mathematics concepts.
Comment by Mary Henton on October 5, 2009 at 9:21am
Just read an article this morning in the November 2007 edition of Middle School Journal, entitled, "Teaching Mathematics and English to Second Language Learners Simul... The topic is, perhaps, a subset of "Reading Mathematics is Different"??

I haven't had a chance to listen to the recording of your webinar, Judy (on the agenda for tomorrow), so these couple of points may simply repeat what you've already shared. But even though the MSJ article addresses English language learners and mathematics, there were a couple of things that seem to ring true for all students. And I found the article informative.

For one thing, I hadn't thought about the fact that mathematical grammar is different from the grammar of social language or the grammar of English literature. The authors use the example of the prepositions by and into. In "divide into" and "divide by" the prepositions mean something quite different than when they appear in phrases like, "into the room" or "by the desk."

The authors reference the "Instructional Congruence Framework" for teaching second language learners, and outline 7 steps with specific examples for the mathematics classroom. Two that stand out as appropriate to help all students, regardless of their first language are--

1. Introduce new vocabulary in a thoughtful and integrated manner. For example, teach how to find the area of a square or how to determine square root when the word square is introduced. By the way, the authors suggest that no more than 12 new vocabulary words be introduced during any one lesson.

2. Identify and highlight key words with multiple meanings. For example, table shows up in the times table and the table of values. It also shows up in timetable (which is different from times table!), table of contents, water table, and the periodic table.
Comment by Mary Henton on October 5, 2009 at 9:04am
I've been doing some reading about English language learners and came across an interesting (for me) article in the November 2007 Middle School Journal, entitled, "Teaching Mathematics and English to English Language Learners Simu...--a sub-set (?) of the topic "Reading Mathematics is Different."??

A couple of things in the article stood out for me, and perhaps echo some of your points, Judy (I haven't had a chance to catch the webinar recording. On the schedule for tomorrow!):
1. That the grammar of mathematics is different from what we generally think of in English. The article gave examples of the use of prepositions (e.g., into and by: "divide into" or "divide by" use those prepositions differently than "She is going into the room" or "The plant is by the desk").

2. The authors reference the "Instructional Congruence Framework" and offer 7 steps to help English Language Learners develop English language ability at the same time they learn to "read" mathematics. Two points that make sense for all students are--

a. Introduce new vocabulary in a thoughtful and integrated manner. For example, teach and practice finding the area of a square or determining square roots in concert with introducing that as a new vocabulary word. The authors suggest that no more than 12 new words be introduced per lesson.

b. Identify and highlight key words with multiple meanings. Example: table. There is a times table and a table of values. There are a periodic table, a table of contents, water table, and timetables.

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