Communicate Mathematically

In their article, Watch Your Language! Recommendations to Help Students Communicate Mathematically, Bratina and Lipkin “suggest methods to help students improve their critical reading skills and to become better problem solvers” (p. 3).  Here are a few of their suggestions:

1: Include specific language arts activities in mathematics lessons
Use frequent, regular, and brief word wall activities (Bratina & Lipkin, p. 4).

2. Create instances for students to experience words in different contexts
For example, include true-false items such as, “Some squares are rectangles.” or “All squares are rectangles.” or “Some rectangles are squares.”  Items like these will lead to mathematical conversations and help students to comprehend complex statements (Bratina & Lipkin, p. 5).

3. Provide time for students to practice the language.
“Both comprehension and accuracy are essential for the development of proficiency in mathematics, and should precede attempts to perform operations with speed.  But once the students have grasped the meanings of mathematical words and symbols, they need to become fluent in using this mathematical language” (Bratina & Lipkin, p. 7).
Just as students need to master the basics of reading and then practice reading fluently and for comprehension, similarly students need to master the basics of math and then practice math for automaticity.

Suggestions for practicing the language of math:
Say it out loud
Cloze procedures
Games such as word searches, crossword puzzles, and cryptograms

4. Praise student perseverance
“When students are engaged in problem-solving exercises, have them read the entire problem before trying to analyze and dissect it.  Then have them read it again.  And again!  In other words, let the students know that instantaneous understanding is not the norm” (Bratina & Lipkin, p. 9).
Instead of asking, “Does everyone understand what we just read?”, ask students to restate or rewrite the problem in their own words.

5. Be a role model (Bratina & Lipkin, p. 10)
Set up a bulletin board as a “Wall of Fame” and post pictures of students when you catch them performing well, such as exhibiting strong communication skills.  Share examples of “real” people who are role models and involved in the communication and mathematics world, such as news anchors, and the first female shuttle commander, Air Force Colonel Eileen Collins.

You can find Bratina & Lipkin’s full article here.


Calendar Math and Language Arts

Most primary classrooms have a daily calendar time and Melissa Biddle uses her calendar time “as a springboard for introducing, reinforcing, and assessing a wide array of math skills” and as a chance to model language arts.  She suggests many great ideas such as: a math word wall and language arts conversations during calendar time.

Ms. Biddle suggests these great activities to make use of your math word wall:
“Write 5-10 word wall words on the chalkboard one letter at a time.  Encourage the class to predict what the words will be.  After all words have been written and reviewed, have students put their heads down.  Erase one word at a time and ask students to open their eyes and guess what word you have erased.”
“Randomly give two different letters to pairs of students.  Allow time for each partner to review and quiz the other on all the words under his or her letter.”

Here are some examples of the language arts conversations Ms. Biddle suggests you model and use during calendar time:
“Let’s ask a question about something special in February.”
“Tell your neighbor a statement about something you did in March.”
“Today is the fifth of January.  Let’s highlight every fifth word on the list.  Let’s sort these words into nouns or verbs.”
“Today is the twelfth of November.  Let’s use the twelfth word from each list and make a November sentence using these words.”
“Today is March 12, 2007.  Let’s list the number synonyms for 12.”  Number synonyms are just like words that are synonyms: words that have the same meaning.  So, possible number synonyms for 12 are: 4 + 8, 20 – 8, 3 + 3 + 3 + 3, 1 ten + 2 ones, 3 x 4, etc!

What a great way to start the day and work on multiple math and reading standards!  Read Melissa Biddle’s great article here.

Biddle, M. (2007, February). When opportunity knocks: Integrating language arts and the daily calendar. The Reading Teacher, 60(5), 488-491. doi:10.1598/‌RT.60.5.8