Bringing the Real World to the ClassroomJune 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 3 Comments
(By Greg Pfeil)
The integration of literacy within different content areas is a technique in education that has become increasingly popular in recent years. This is caused by the fact that people are beginning to notice that literacy is a vital aspect of education, no matter what subject content is being taught. This is especially true in mathematics classes, where the traditional viewpoint has always been that literacy is not related. In order for students to truly gain an understanding of new content material, they must be able to understand what is being taught and make a connection to the material. Making this connection with the new material must occur if the students are going to remember the content in a useful manner. This is where traditional teachers have often struggled. Many teachers are not able to help their students create a connection with the class material, and therefore their students are not able to transfer this knowledge to other school or real life situations in the future. Just about all of us have taken math classes in which the teachers have the students read from a textbook and then perform practice problems based on this information, but are the students truly understanding the material? What use does a textbook have if the students are unable to read it?
In her article “What is mathematical literacy”, math teacher, writer, and teacher trainer Erlina Ronda explains the importance of helping her students create a connection to the course material. She writes:
“To be able to use mathematics to make well-founded judgment demands learning experiences that would engage students in problem solving and investigation as these would equip them to use mathematics to represent, communicate, and reason, to make decisions and to participate creatively and productively in the functioning of society.”
Shouldn’t this be the goal of education for teachers? Every student within the classroom should be taught the information they need to become productive members of society once they have graduated. Math has traditionally been a subject in which the textbook is followed very closely and the students are not presented with problems that are related to their lives. I beleive this is a major issue with math classes and is something that needs to be changed throughout our country. The material that is taught in math classes, or any other subjects, must be directed towards the student’s lives in order to ensure they gain a complete understanding. One of the major issues I have seen in my own personal classroom experiences and observations is that some teachers do not take the time to understand their students, which means they will never be able to present the content in a way that will relate it to their student’s lives.
In her article “Math and Literacy: Not-So-Strange Bedfellows” Francesca Duffy explains a research project that was being conducted in Columbia, MO regarding literacy integration in two mathematics classrooms. Duffy explains how literacy can help teachers understand their students when she writes:
She also notes that the benefits of including writing in math classes can be “bigger than learning.” For instance, the written work can help to build better relationships between the teacher and student, she says. Her husband Ryan’s students sometimes used their writing to bring up situations they were struggling with in their personal lives. This was a notable result, Jayme says since “math is usually a little less personal area of a curriculum.
So why is it that many teachers still tend to stick to the traditional style of teaching math and have not integrated literacy into their curriculum? What processes or techniques should teachers use to ensure that we understand our student’s lives and help them create a useful connection to the material? How can teachers implement these techniquest within the classroom while still ensuring that the subject material being taught is not hindered?