Becoming Math Literate

Not too long ago I began to think about incorporating literacy skills in a math classroom. I was unsure at first how literacy related to math, but it all became very clear to me. I have never really thought about literacy in a math class until recently. So what exactly is math literacy? Math literacy is problem solving and analyzing information. It is having the ability to use numbers to solve real world problems. Additionally, math literacy is the ability to understand the language that is used in math. Math literacy helps students understand what a problem is really asking by being able to comprehend the language being used. On the other hand, literacy skills are well known in our everyday life. You know how to comprehend the written language. Students achieve academic success better when they have strong reading comprehension skills. However, the process of becoming math literate is not as well known in our everyday life. Becoming math literate is just as important to students’ success as other literacy skills are.

A good question to think about is when does a student become math literate. A student is not math literate until they know the operations of adding, subtracting, multiplication, and division. When students are articulate with these basic operations, it helps their brains solve problems better and to analyze information more successfully. Students can then be considered math literate when they can effectively use the math concepts they have learned to solve problems. It is also important to know how to transfer different concepts and skills they have learned to help them solve problems.

When students are developing math literacy, there may be some roadblocks along the way. Students may have difficulty with recognizing patterns at first and using the skills they have learned to solve different types of problems. Math requires abstract thinking and sometimes students have a hard time thinking outside the box. Another roadblock is interpreting story problems. Most of the time students are use to just seeing numbers and not all words. They sometimes have difficulties fully understanding what the story problem may be asking them and it takes awhile to realize the steps to complete the problem. Another big roadblock in developing math literacy is that students often lack confidence in their ability to problem solve. If students have positive experiences with math at a young age, they have a greater chance to be successful at it. This is where we come in and always make math a positive learning experience for all of our students.

There are always ways to be improving math literacy skills once students have them. It is essential to review basic concepts to build up their skills. Math becomes simpler when students have a better understanding of basic concepts like adding, subtracting, division, and multiplication. Students often think that math is only used in a classroom and nowhere else. Math is everywhere and it is used in our everyday life.

Becoming math literate is so important and some students do not see the value in it. They often ask, “When am I ever going to use this?” I do not know how many times I have heard students ask that question. As educators we need to find a way to stray away from this question and not give them the opportunity to ask it. If students are shown real world problems and how math is used in our daily lives, this will be the key step to motivate our students to become math literate.


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