Unique Text Reading Challenges for Math StudentsMay 23, 2010 at 12:35 pm | Posted in uncategorized | 2 Comments
Posted by Peter Parker
The traditional textbook math classes use pose many challenges for students must overcome in order to comprehend the context contained within. Math content knowledge is generally built up upon previous knowledge. The text reflects this building block approach. The text is not written in the typical voice a student recognizes from other subjects. The form of the writing in the text is possibly organized around example problems which contain the use of multiple mathematical symbols, tables or graphs.
The structure of the writing is different from the text the students are accustomed to. The math texts are not in story form. The vocabulary the students are accustomed to read elsewhere is used in novel ways. The texts often contain a high density of conceptual material. In Teaching Reading in Mathematics and Science, M. L. Barton and others state that text style, the organization and presentation of content-affects reading comprehension.
Most math text books are example oriented. There will be sample problems in the text, however there will be intermediate steps to the solutions that will be omitted, with a typical comment such as “we can see the solution to be such”. The students will be responsible to fill the steps in. The students may require significant scaffolding, time and inferences in order to fill in the missing steps to fully comprehend the examples.
The text books use symbols to represent larger concepts. Dr. Muench, a St. John fisher College professor, spoke about the use of symbols in our Discrete Algorithm course. He said that the symbols are a method of shorthand, to minimize the amount of written text. However, the symbols require more in-depth thought by the students thereby making the reading more difficult. The symbols used are often Greek letters, again confusing struggling readers. Tables and graphs are another type of content device that the students do not regularly see in there other subjects.
Question for thought: What are some strategies that would help students to overcome these special challenges and why?