Literacy of Mathematics, Essay Example
The study of literacy is a valuable application in a variety of subjects, including in the field of mathematics (Christie & Misson, 1998, p. 47). Students are now required to apply their understanding of the English language to solving problems utilising mathematics, which helps them draw important connections between the work they do during their coursework and practical applications that apply these skills in the real world setting. Studies have shown that engaging in studies of literacy in the mathematics classroom contributes to the development of more effective reasoning skills (Bunnett, 2007, p. 1). To be literate in the field of mathematics, it is necessary to not only understand the words used to formulate word problems, it is also important for students to determine how these words translate to mathematic symbols. Furthermore, it is beneficial for students to provide concise yet descriptive explanations of the steps that are required to solve mathematics questions, justifying their steps. Thus, literacy skills are highly applicable to mathematics because they help students both interpret questions and to provide relevant reasoning behind the steps taken in order to emphasize the logic necessary to succeed in the problem solving process (Christie, 2005, p. 3). An analysis of the Stage 2 NSW Mathematics Syllabus and other references will be utilized to demonstrate that the social approach to language is necessary to help students build an understanding of disciplines that transcend their respective fields.
According to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, successful learners “have the essential skills in literacy and numeracy, and are creative and productive users of technology, especially ICT, as a foundation for success in all learning areas” (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2012, p. 8). The changing notions of literacy indicate the importance of applying these skills across the scholastic disciplines (Kalantzis, 2012, p. 10). It is expected that students are able to further develop their literacy skills and apply them with meaningful context if these skills are presented in all of their academic coursework (Pankhurst, 2015, p. 1). Communication skills continues to be an important life skill and it is necessary for Australian students to develop both reading and writing to ensure that they will be adequately prepared for post-secondary education in addition to their future careers (Gee, 2003, p. 4).
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority reports that it is valuable to enforce literacy and numeracy skills as a component of early childhood education (ACARA, 2012, p. 15). It is essential to begin building these literacy skills at an early age because it will allow students to have a better grasp of the basics of these skills early in their lives (Freebody, 2011, p. 1). Thus, educators could more effectively utilise scaffolding to build upon these skills until their secondary education is complete. In particular, scaffolding skills can be used to help students gain a better understanding of terms frequently used in mathematics, which will help students determine the meaning of mathematics more effectively (Parkin & Hayes, 2006, p. 23). It is expected that this initiative will contribute to the more effective development of skills in literacy and mathematics. “In the early years of schooling, priority is given to literacy and numeracy development because these are the foundations on which further learning is built” (ACARA, 2012, p. 16). It is therefore expected that students will be better able to excel in topics that use these skills, such as history and the sciences. Understanding how to read and interpret texts is relevant to both fields. Mathematics literacy is particularly relevant to higher level sciences, such as chemistry and physics, because these disciplines require the use of word problems to allow students to solve word problems involving scientific applications. By starting children with an appreciation for literacy in mathematics at an early age, these practices will become more normal for them in the school setting, which will help children think differently about the way that they approach problems in mathematics in addition to the way they think about academic disciplines as a whole.
The social view of language in the Australian curriculum is that building literacy skills, “Reinforces the significance of communication and the general capabilities of literacy, numeracy, and personal and social capability as key enablers of learning” (ACARA, 2012, p. 18). Thus, it is anticipated that the ability of students to learn both individually and as a team will enhance as a consequence of literacy focused studies. Furthermore, using mathematic language through literacy from a young age will allow students to become accustomed to this practice, which allows for an increased likelihood that an understanding of proper mathematical language will develop (Chard, n.d., p. 1). Furthermore, using literacy in mathematics will allow students to achieve a greater idea of what is being asked from them in their classwork (Callingham & Falle, 2011, p. 107).
The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority claims that, “Success in any learning area depends on being able to use the significant, identifiable and distinctive literacy that is important for learning and representative of the content of that learning” (ACARA, 2013, p. 1). In mathematics, literacy is valuable when it helps students reinforce important concepts and to explain their ideas. The most straightforward application of literacy in mathematics is teaching skills to help students understand word problems in a manner that allows them to determine which mathematical operations need to be performed and in what order (NSW, 2007, p. 1). However, students can also be asked to justify the steps they take in such problems by explaining them in written form. Doing so will allow these individuals to easily track the steps they took in solving the problem in addition to the steps that they took that may have led them astray. Diagnosing the stepwise solution of problems is therefore a distinctive use of literacy that is relevant to the field of mathematics. In addition, students can meaningfully apply the social view of language to help them collaborate to solve problems. Facilitating a dialogue between students will help them engage in problem solving in a manner that can allow them to solve more complex problems and to resolve misunderstandings (Clary, 2015, p. 1). The social view of language is ultimately valuable because it provides students with a means by which they can communicate with one another. Enhancing this communication in the field of mathematics would therefore allow students to gain a more comprehensive understanding of processes and procedures relevant to this discipline.
One relevant literacy teaching strategy that can be implemented in the field of mathematics is the use of language in context (Derewianka & Jones, 2012, p. 5). It is plausible to provide students with an understanding of determining the meaning of words in context as they pertain to the solution of the problem. Specifically, language in context shows, “how spoken language differs from written language” (Derewianka & Jones, 2012, p. 5). This is an important application in mathematics because the way in which language is spoken in the field parallels how it is represented, but these two methods are not necessarily identical. To help students find the meaning of words such as product and quotient, for example, students could simply cover up the word that they do not understand. Then, they should determine whether “multiply” or “divide” would fit better based on the context of this question (Pankhurst, 2015, p. 1). In this manner, students will be better able to understand the use of mathematics vocabulary without needing to memorize definitions. It is expected that over time, they will become accustomed to this practice and therefore become more familiar with the terms that are commonly used in mathematics word problems.
The use of language in context could become embedded in practice when mathematics teachers continually use this application as a part of the problem solving process whenever word problem questions are being studied. For example, mathematics teachers frequently provide their students with information regarding the steps needed to solve problems (NSW, 1997, p. 1). Traditionally however, these steps only include the necessary mathematics. It would be beneficial for mathematics teachers to take this understanding a step further by incorporating literacy practices into these rules. The first step of solving world problems should therefore be to identify the meaning of mathematical terms. The second step of this problem solving technique should then be to use language in context to determine the meaning of terms that are unfamiliar to the student. In this manner, students will be able to determine the meaning of the questions that they are asked, which will enable them to perform the steps of solving the equation with a greater degree of accuracy (Clary, 2015, p. 1). This practice is particularly relevant for multi-step problems, in which students need to determine the meaning of words in addition to the order of operations that are being discussed. By understanding the question in a more meaningful way, students will become more able to understand the math background that is needed to find a solution.
An additional literacy method that is valuable in the classroom is the principle of strategic reading (Kenney et al., 2005, p. 15). The strategic reading process requires that the reader first reviews the relevant text. Then, they are asked to make connections between the text and background knowledge that they may already contain by activating prior knowledge (New South Wales Board of Studies, 2012, p. 1). Last, purposes for the reading are established by the student and/or teacher. This method is valuable in the field of mathematics because many word problems contain paragraphs with dense information. Thus, the preview reading allows students to understand the gist of what is being asked without requiring them to take any action (Tompkins, 2012, p. 17). Next, they are asked to read the paragraph again to determine if they have solved similar problems in the past. Once relevant connections are made, they will be asked to solve the actual world problem that is being asked. It is practical to embed this technique in classroom practice by regularly previewing and using deep reading techniques for word problems as they are encountered in the classroom (Phillips et al., 2009, p. 3). Students should only be allowed to attempt such problems if they understand what is being asked.
In conclusion, literacy is applicable to a broad range of disciplines. Reading, writing, and communication are skills that are necessary in math because solving word problems requires an understanding and interpretation of the problem. Literacy in context and strategic reading are both methods that could be applied to mathematics education in the classroom. It is expected that building these strategies into the curriculum will allow students to gain a greater appreciation for how literacy skills can be applied in mathematics. Furthermore, it is expected that these strategies will allow students to excel at solving world problems because these skills will allow them to better understand what they are being asked to do so solve the relevant question. Building skills in literacy allows students to have a knowledge of the discipline that will allow them to apply these skills in a variety of fields. It is beneficial for students to utilize literacy in math so that they will better be able to decode text and provide a critical explanation of the steps that they have taken to complete their work.
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