Puzzles as a form of Literacy?June 12, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Posted in Content Area Literacy | 3 Comments
(By Jeremy Willard)
Often times in math classes it is hard to get students interested in reading textbooks for content. Many students have a hard time with sitting down and actually reading for understanding, whether it is from lack of interest or confusion. Literacy is not just the act of sitting down and reading. Literacy has been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently, and think critically about the written word. So in order to incorporate literacy into our math classes, there are many different strategies we can introduce to our students other than reading textbooks.
A great article called, “From Puzzles to Literacy: Off the Beaten Path”, discusses how puzzles are a great form of literacy and why they should be introduced in many of our classrooms. In the article, Jen states that there is more than one path to literacy, and that’s a good thing because we all have different interests and abilities. I think this is a great point, especially since everyone learns a different way. Many students could be visual learners that learn better from looking at patterns and puzzles which will get them to a greater understanding of the concept. She later goes on to state that “puzzles tease us, make us laugh, challenge us, and surprise us. In short, they entertain us while leading us to our destination: literacy”. After reading this quote, it made me realize that there are many different forms of literacy and puzzles are a great way to introduce literacy in a math classroom. To a student in a math classroom, puzzles are associated with games and play, even though they require reading, understanding, and following instructions. Students can have fun with puzzles which is great because it gets them motivated and interested in the topic, but at the same time indulging in literacy. One final thought that Jen has to offer in this article is that building up to difficult puzzles will give students the stamina that is required in reading books. So we can see that puzzles can directly be associated with building children’s reading levels.
Another reason why puzzles can be such a great experience for students can be seen in the article by Samuel Liberty called “Why are Puzzles Good for your Brain?” Liberty states that performing mental exercises, such as puzzles, can help form new connections and increase long term mental-performance. Forming connections in math is a great way to get students motivated and interested in the unit you are trying to teach. Students enjoy puzzles because they feel that it is a break from learning, but actually it is the opposite according to Liberty. Puzzles can help with both memory retrieval and brain health by strengthening the connections between brain cells.
With all these benefits of puzzles, it is hard to argue that they would not be an important part of a math classroom. Literacy is more than just the act of reading textbooks and puzzles can be a great alternative of that. Puzzles can get your students interested in class lessons and also prepare them for the times you do need them to read that dreaded textbook.