Students are often expected to learn or reinforce mathematical concepts through reading a textbook or other mathematical document. This activity helps students to recall and effectively apply strategies that can guide them towards effectively reading and learning mathematical text. Students use a special bookmark in their math book, and refer regularly to the math reading strategies printed on the bookmark to guide their work.
Prepare and copy bookmarks for each student. You can usually print six to eight bookmarks from a single piece of standard printer paper, and then you will likely want to reinforce the bookmarks by attaching them to card stock or construction paper and/or laminating them. You may choose to allow students to decorate or personalize their bookmarks. The bookmarks should be printed with the following strategies (or others that are more relevant and useful for your class):
Identify the math text you would like students to work on during class.
- Teacher presents the bookmarks, and introduces and reviews each of the strategies. Teacher models flexible use of each strategy.Initially students will need a lot of direct instruction and modeling in each strategy, and you may want to focus at least one class day introducing and practicing each strategy in isolation. Eventually, they should be relatively adept in each individual strategy and the main goal should be to help them to use them flexibly and strategically.Instruct students that the strategies are not meant to be used rigidly, in a standard order, but that students should stop regularly and use the strategy or strategies that are most helpful.
- Teacher distributes math text, and students prepare to read alone or in pairs.
Math textbooks, or other short documents explaining math concepts or processes, work well for this activity.
- Students begin reading the text, stopping regularly to apply one or more strategies.Since math text tends to be very dense and complex, students should stop after each one or two sentences to ask if they make sense, and to restate them in their own words. Other strategies can be used at wider intervals.If you want more accountability for strategy use, you can create a template or graphic organizer with spots for students’ responses to the strategies. Students can then write in their paraphrases, their explanations of whether and why sentences make sense, their word substitutions, the prior knowledge that the author expects, and the clarifications provided through conversation. Students can also record these ideas through annotations on the text or on Post-its.As students are reading, you can circulate among them and lead mini-conferences, asking them about how they use the strategy for reading comprehension, and guiding their practice.
- In pairs, students compare what they noticed, and arrive at a common understanding of the main idea(s) of the text.
This is a great time to confer with pairs of students, to listen to their ideas, and to help them to arrive at a clear understanding of main ideas.
- Alone or in groups, in conversation or in writing, students reflect on their learning process.Students respond to questions including:How did this activity affect your ability to understand math writing?How is reading math writing different from reading other types of writing? How can you adapt to these differences to understand what you read?How does the bookmark affect your use of strategies?How does talking with a peer affect your understanding of the text?How might you adapt this strategy to use in another class or context?