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Building Mathematical Comprehension- Chapter 1

So I’m not as horribly late with this book study as I am with the other one!  The pirate one is moving fast as it’s a very fast read.  This one has got TONS of great information in it!  I’m now only a couple of chapters behind so I think I can catch up with this and then work to catch up the other one.  Trying to keep the small child occupied coupled with I get distracted with another cleaning/organizing project in my house as kept me away from my books.  But anyways…

So Beth at Thinking of Teaching and Brenda over at Primary Inspired are hosting this awesome book study!  Let me tell you, this first chapter had me hooked and already mentally apologizing to my past students for not making connections sooner about how to better teach math.  There’s so much information I have to read it and highlight, tab important pages and make a list of those tabs for easy referencing, and then (here’s the crazy part), I’m outlining the chapter on my iPad in the notes app.  Why?!  Well I’m determined to learn.  Not just read and go, “Okay that’s over.”  This is how I learn.

So chapter 1 is all about how reading and math are alike in so many ways and how the comprehension strategies we use in reading can and should be used in math to help students generate more in depth meaning.  Sammons discussed some studies that led to this current math education reformation and how it stemmed from the reading one.  In all these studies and analysis of American students versus other participating countries, the concept of “mathematical literacy” was defined.  This really stuck out to me:

“…students should be able to put mathematics to a functional use.  They should have the ‘ability to analyze, reason, and communicate ideas effectively as they pose, formulate, solve, and interpret solutions to mathematical problems in a variety of situations or contexts’ (OECD 2006)” (pg. 19)

Wow!  We’re supposed to teach students to do all that!  When you look at it that way, it makes sense that strategies would need to be put in place to help students in working towards this goal.  Sammons lays out what the strategies are, what is composed of explicit instruction, and a whole process of teaching those strategies in a math setting.  Thanks goodness!

So the comprehension strategies she listed are:

  1. Making connections.
  2. Asking questions.
  3. Visualizing.
  4. Making inferences.
  5. Determining importance.
  6. Synthesizing.
  7. Monitoring meaning.

This is what the students need to learn to do in various combinations.  I’ll be honest and say that numbers 2, 4, and sometimes 6 and 7 were hard for me growing up.  I can do it with first grade level work now (you would hope!) but it took teaching these strategies before I really understood them.  Math was hard for me.  Problem solving and critical thinking was hard for me.  Ask my mother.  It was a constant battle.  I relied on learning processes (step-by-step formulas) and such to get me through.  I want my students to have much more than that.  These strategies will give them more than that.

Now, in order for this to happen you need to explicitly instruct your students.  Now this is something I think we all learn in college when starting to write lesson plans, but it was still so nice to see it laid out in this book and explained.  Again.  Hey…8 years is a long time to be doing this (at least for me)!  You forget things!  😉

The steps to explicit instruction are on page 31 and are as follows:

  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.
  6. Students independently use the strategy.

Oh!  Something I want to point out!  Before you can even start this process with your kids- Sammons states several times in this chapter that YOU  as the TEACHER must have an understanding of the strategies you are teaching and must be concise in how you teach them.  Now that means for me, some studying beforehand.  I use some of the strategies without thinking about them.  So I need to make sure I think about them so I can explain them well.  But others, not so much.  Bottom line- know what you are talking about!

Okay back to the list.  So something that really stuck out to me was the fact that when you’re at number 4 (and Sammons points this out specifically), don’t involve the kiddos in doing the work!  They watch!  Hello!  We all know that.  But like I said before, we can forget things.  So I know that I’m going to make sure they watch me first and THEN they get start doing it with me and then on their own.  While it may seem simple enough, I think it’s good that we work to be consciously aware of what we are doing with our kiddos and trying to be doing things on purpose.

So these are my thoughts on this chapter!  I probably got more but I don’t want to bore y’all and I really want to move on to chapter 2.  I really recommend this book.  It’s totally helping me already and I don’t even have a class yet!  So Brenda and Beth also hosted this chapter so I highly suggest reading their thoughts on it.  They are good ones!  Just click their buttons below to go to the posts.  So what do you think about all this?  Please share!

Thinking of Teaching

Happy Teaching!


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