Friday, June 18, 2010

Literacy Strategies

Okay, so as previously mentioned, I am going to be spending some time in professional reading (but my new novels look awesome too!), and sharing some insight here. The first book I'm reading (about 100 pages, hence why it's #1 on the list) is Literacy Strategies for Improving Mathematics Instruction.

So far, I've tackled Chapter 1. I have to admit that I kept getting distracted and this isn't an easy read for me - I'm really not one for "goobly-gook speech patterns", I'm really a pretty simple-minded person at heart. I tend to like books that are more of a "say what ya gotta say and hush" type of book :) Edu-speak typically irritates me quicker than anything because most of the time I feel like they are either trying to impress me with their vast amounts of knowledge OR they want me to feel bad for not understanding a word they are saying. However, there was one part of Chapter 1 that really stood out to me....

In Chapter 1, the authors really spend time related Mathematics to other languages. It has its "nouns" (numbers, shapes, functions) and "verbs" (modeling, communicating, transforming) and as a "foreign language", we really should approach it more with ELL type-strategies. The authors shared experiences of "use it or lose it" with both mathematics and traditional foreign languages. For myself, I took 2 years of Spanish in HS, yet retained none of it long term. As the author points out, some of that is of course that lack of usage, but could also be attributed to the way I "learned" Spanish. In Spanish 1, we spent a lot of time on nouns and verbs - my teacher had a table at the front with all kinds of stuff - toys, household items, etc and she would hold up an item and name it, we would repeat it, etc. She also taught us verbs - toss, pet, touch, point, etc. This memorization was useful, but ultimately it was just memorization, not a true understanding of the language. (With that said, I *loved* my Spanish teacher - she was amazing at making it fun to learn). Another point made was regarding decoding the language of math, both symbols and words. For example, the same symbol horizontally (=) and vertically (||) means totally different things in math. Food for thought... especially in how to relate to those students learning BOTH the language of english AND the language of math at the same time.

Overall, I think I'm going to enjoy this book. The next chapters delve into the strategies, but I know that I personally have given lip-service to "math is its own language", without really understanding what that meant. They've definitely opened my eyes to issues I hadn't thought about.

Til next time... :)

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