Integrating literacy into math is surprisingly easy!
With all of the things that we must teach in a school day, it’s necessary to find ways to cross the curriculum.
What makes reading and writing so special is that they can be paired with any subject or content area~even math!
In this article, you’ll discover 12 strategies for integrating literacy into math that you can implement asap.
So let’s dig into it!
Integrating Literacy into Math: Reading Ideas
Interactive Read Alouds
Complement your math units with books! Whichever math skill you’re teaching, try to find a great picture book that lends itself well to that particular skill.
Let’s say, for instance, the target reading skill for a lesson in reader’s workshop is sequencing.
If you’ll also be teaching about multiplication arrays in math, then choose an interactive read aloud book that focuses on multiplication arrays and which also provides opportunities to focus on the sequencing skill.
The picture book One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes demonstrates this very well.
While the main objective of the book is obviously multiplication arrays, the clear sequence of events in the story targets the reading skill of sequencing almost effortlessly.
Reading Strategies for Solving Word Problems
Can you recall those reading comprehension strategies that we teach learners to focus on during reader’s workshop?
- Making Connections
- Using “Fix-Up” Strategies
Have students use these same strategies to solve math word problems which are essentially mini reading comprehension passages.
Because your kiddos are already using these thinking strategies during literacy block, they should be able to easily apply them when problem solving in math.
You may have to model a few times what this looks like, but they’ll get the gist of it quickly!
To give a bit of guidance to your little mathematicians while problem solving, I’ve created this colorful set of FREE reading strategies bookmarks (available in English and Spanish)! Subscribe below to get a copy of them.
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Math Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is a buzzword in education these days and rightfully so; any opportunity that makes the learning process more authentic is welcomed and encouraged.
A few years ago, I stumbled upon these A-M-A-Z-I-N-G math project ideas and decided to use them for literacy purposes as well.
How did I do this?
I divided learners into groups of 3 or 4, gave each a math project idea from the menu of choices, and told them to go for it!
They were responsible for READING all instructions, conducting the appropriate research (more reading), and completing the actual project (writing plus more reading). I facilitated as needed but gave no answers.
What success they had!
Not only did I assess their math skills, but while they completed each stage of the project, I was able to observe their thinking processes in relation to reading and writing skills/strategies.
It was a great opportunity for me to take anecdotal notes and use the information as an informal assessment.
Readers’ Theater Scripts
Integrating literacy into math is SO easy to do with reader’s theater scripts!
If you’re not familiar with these wonderful classroom plays, take a look at this reader theater article which gives the 411 on using them in the classroom.
With readers’ theater scripts, kids get to learn about math ( or any subject) through drama. They really love it!
Integrating Literacy into Math: Writing Ideas
We’re most familiar with using graphic organizers in reading and writing, but hey, they can just as easily be used for math, too!
They’re especially beneficial to math word study. Check out a few of the examples below.
For the Venn Diagram, after students complete the organizer, you could have them write in their math journals a short paragraph about the differences between composite and prime numbers.
The concept map is also very useful for analyzing key terms in math.
Alphabet books aren’t just for the lower grades! They’re perfect for grades K-12 and an absolutely wonderful way of integrating literacy into math.
Think of any math unit your class is learning about. Let’s say measurement.
As a project, have students create an alphabet book of 27 pages (cover page + one page for each letter of the alphabet).
For each letter, they’ll write a word connected with the main theme along with a detailed description or definition. It must be in their own words and based on their research/prior knowledge.
Relevant sketches or symbols are a good addition to each page.
Once all the pages are complete, have them bound and viola! Now students have a great reference guide to refer to as needed.
Math Word Walls
Content-based word walls are a little different than sight word walls. Content word walls display vocabulary from a specific unit of study. The words aren’t usually common, everyday terms.
The key to any word wall is that they need to be interactive!
Whatever math unit you’re studying, put the words on a math word wall, but make sure students are having opportunities to engage with those words.
How can you do this? Well, have students…
- Use the words in word work activities.
- Write meaningful sentences with the words using the Tic-Tac-Toe template.
Check out this resource for tons of other ideas for integrating literacy into math using word walls.
Shamefully, I was never consistent with having my students use math journals (a math notebook, yes, but a math journal? Not so much).
I am, though, a believer in their effectiveness in helping students reflect on the learning process through writing.
For me, math journals are different than regular math notebooks; I see them as similar in purpose to a reader response notebook.
Use math journals to have learners respond to the math lesson. Ask students to record how they arrived at an answer, to explain their thinking in solving a word problem, or to note important vocabulary.
There are lots of possibilities for using a math journal. To get you started, check out these great math question stems.
Anchor Charts/Interactive Writing
Anchor charts are powerful teaching tools that help reinforce targeted skills, strategies, or steps.
The magic of them happens when students help in contributing content to the charts via interactive writing.
Interactive writing is teacher and students “sharing the pen”.
Integrating literacy into math this way lends itself to not only rich discussions about the targeted math objectives but also writing and grammar rules.
Create Math Centers
Kids love games!
Stretch their brains a bit by having them create math centers or games, and make writing the instructions the primary focus.
You may want to create a whole class game first so that they better understand your expectations, but after that, let the game-making begin! 😊
How fun, right?
Assess how deep students comprehend math concepts using story frames.
Create each story frame with a math theme in mind. Let’s take for example, the topic of problem solving.
You make a skeleton, or frame, and then students fill it out with the appropriate information.
Story frames are great for struggling readers and writers who need the extra support. The frames are equally beneficial to ESL learners.
Solving word problems during math block is the norm, but go a step further and have students write some original story problems.
I created a Math Specialist literature circle role so learners could practice writing word problems during book clubs based on characters and/or events in a book.
This is a great way to sharpen writing chops and critical thinking skills!
As with most lessons, model a few times so that students are clear about the process and your expectations.
With creative writing exercises, integrating literacy into math becomes so much fun!
Studying poetry? Then have students write haikus or cinquains about different shapes/solids.
Want students to improve their fluency and reading comprehension? Then have them write and present reader’s theater scripts based on math themes.
Studying point of view or voice within the six traits of writing framework? Well, your growing authors can write fictional stories from the perspective of a mathematical symbol, object, or word.
The possibilities are endless. Get creative with it! 😋
Integrating literacy into math just got a bit easier!
Until next time,
Happy teaching and learning!
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