Saturday, July 11, 2015

Building Mathematical Comprehension Summer Book Study (Chapter 1)

I’m ba-ack!  A rough year makes for a terrible blogger, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  I’m thrilled to report that I’ve moved on, I’m happy to be back, and I’m getting ready for what I hope will be a terrific school year. 

I have been enjoying summer immensely as it has allowed me to catch up on my reading.  I’ve been reading both for pleasure and professional development.  I thought I’d take this opportunity to join in on a blogging book study (late to the party, of course J) and link up with A Teacher Mom. 

I have just finished reading the first chapter of Laney Sammons’ book Building Mathematical Comprehension.  Math literacy is at the heart of this book, and it is defined by OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) as:

“an individual’s capacity to identify and understand the role that mathematics plays in the world, to make well-founded judgments, and to use and engage with mathematics in ways that meet the needs of that individual’s life as a constructive, concerned and reflective citizen” (p. 19).

Sammons contends that the skills necessary to be literate in reading are the same skills that pave the way to math success.  She demonstrates these similarities for us as readers in her book on page 22 (reproduced here for your convenience). 

Characteristics of Good Readers
Characteristics of Good Mathematicians
They call upon their prior knowledge to make meaning from text.
They call upon prior knowledge to understand concepts and solve problems.
They are fluent readers.
They are procedurally fluent.
They have a mental image of what they are reading.
They create multiple representations of mathematics concepts and problems.
They use multiple strategies to understand and interpret text.
They use multiple strategies to understand concepts and solve problems.
They monitor their understanding as they read.
They monitor their understanding as they solve problems.
They can clearly explain their interpretation of the text to others.
They can clearly explain their mathematical thinking to others.

According to Sammons, readers (and thus, mathematicians) draw upon four kinds of knowledge as they read, including: knowledge about text content, knowledge about text structure, pragmatic knowledge, and knowledge about the social/situational context.  I found this paragraph in the chapter particularly interesting:

            There is a widespread tendency of people to excuse a lack of success
            in mathematics because of a belief that it is a matter of inherent talent          
            rather than lack of effort.  Because of this, the National Mathematics
            Advisory Panel (2008) recommends that educational leaders help
            students and parents recognize the effect of effort on mathematics
            achievement” (p. 27).

In this chapter, Sammons previews the reading/math strategies she will discuss in the remainder of her book (adapted from Keene and Zimmerman, Mosaic of Thought, 2007):

·      Making connections
·      Asking questions
·      Visualizing
·      Making inferences
·      Determining importance
·      Synthesizing, and
·      Monitoring meaning

Sammons lays out a six-step process of explicit instruction, stating that students are much more likely to apply these comprehension strategies to mathematics if we show them exactly how to do so.  Those steps are:

1.     Teacher explains what the strategy is.
2.     Teacher explains why the strategy is important.
3.     Teacher explains when to use the strategy.
4.     Teacher models how to perform the strategy in an actual context while students observe.
5.     Teacher guides students as they practice using the strategy, and
6.     Students independently use the strategy.

After reading this first chapter, I cannot wait to really get into this book.  It is
looking like it might be a better read than I even expected.  Since I know that I will have many ELLs in my class and my campus is really focusing on academic vocabulary this year,  I am really looking forward to reading the second chapter, “Recognizing and Understanding Mathematical Vocabulary.” 

            That’s it for now.  I hope to be back soon with more to share. 


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