Math Plus Literacy Minus Writing Does Not Equal True Math LiteracySeptember 27, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments
(Authored by Matt Marion)
I found this article rather interesting as Shults, defined literacy as: “the development of a set of interrelated skills that include reading, writing, speaking, viewing, listening, and questioning; all leading to the ability to critically assess and use information.” This semester we have focused on reading. I agree with this quote, there is more to ”content area literacy” than we have discussed in class. Content area literacy is more than just reading. One of Shuts’ subheadings is “read, write, and speak about math.” This subheading just screamed to me. I believe literacy is not literacy if writing is not included.
Early on students learn the language of mathematic (and science), often by rote exercises, memorization, or imitating their teacher. Like the English language, I believe students pick up on this, just as they learn to say “mommy” or “daddy” and begin to slowly learn and understand new language. Most of the time learning new language is by association, young children quickly pick up “cookie.” We begin to associate addition or plus with the symbol “+” and “-“ with subtraction or minus as English learners. This continues on until we start getting to more abstract concepts. This is where communication really comes into place. National and NYS math standards (PDF) incorporate communication:
Students will: (1) organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication; (2) communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others; (3) analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others; (4) use the language of mathematics to express mathematical ideas precisely.
Why is writing important to math and science? Seto and Meel (2006) conclude that writing can give insight into what students have learned and what they understand of a given concept. To me writing is important because it is an essential piece of mathematics. The homework assignments where students may repetitively solve equations or what have you ask students to use mathematical writing and language. Mathematical writing follows a specific order. Writing promotes thinking and as we write our blogs or comments, we actively engage in thinking! Writing illustrates comprehension. Writing can also easily be incorporated into homework assignments, it has also been incorporated into regents examinations. In January 2006 (PDF), the Mathematics A regents asked students to write down an irrational number and to explain why it is irrational (see problem 32). So then, how would you define an irrational number? This is the answer that students are likely getting from us.
So, why is writing important to you in math or science? How can we expand and enhance student writing opportunities?
Seto, B., & Meel, S. E. (2006). Writing in mathematics: Making it work. Primus: Problems, Resources, and Issues in Mathematics Undergraduate Studies: 16, 204-232.