Reading and Mathematics
Reading has always been part of learning mathematics. Students read explanations of ideas or processes; they read problems to be solved; and they read teachers' notations on their work. But reading mathematics, for the most part, has meant reading numbers and mathematical symbols. Mathematics texts and computer programs are often written in a terse, abbreviated language that uses few common words, leaves broad gaps to be filled intuitively, and provides little context.
To extend the reading experience and make mathematics more accessible, a more readable mathematics is needed. Translating mathematics language into ordinary language provides a bridge between verbal skills students have already mastered and skills they are developing. Someone said, "Math is a whole different world, and we're the aliens in it." When students can read their mathematics assignments as they read geography or history or science, they will feel less alien, and mathematical ideas and concepts will seem less arcane and more understandable.
Reading about mathematics in stories, literature, and the media also makes mathematics more accessible by providing a meaningful context for ideas and concepts. "What does it mean?" and "What does it mean to me?" are related questions. If an idea means something to the learners personally—impacts their lives directly or indirectly and can be related to things they already know and understand—its general meaning will be easier to grasp and easier to assimilate. It's like formatting a data disk. An unformatted disk can be inserted in the drive, but it won't work with the programs; a formatted disk fits and functions within the system. Reading about mathematics helps to format mathematics studies for students' learning systems.
© ______ 2001, Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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