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ERIC Number: ED530295
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jun-30
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 11
Reading Coaching for Math Word Problems
Edwards, Sharon A.; Maloy, Robert W.; Anderson, Gordon
Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse
"Math is language, too," Phyllis and David Whitin (2000) remind everyone in their informative book about reading and writing in the mathematics classroom. This means that students in elementary school math classes are learning two distinct, yet related languages--one of numbers, the other of words. These languages of numbers and words are combined in math word problems, a standard feature of the academic curriculum and a key part of high-stakes math achievement tests for all students. Math word problems are intricate language constructions--they contain unfamiliar words, complex combinations of text and numbers, and considerable amounts of information to decode and organize. Young readers who are confused and distracted by everyday language, math words, or combinations of both may know how to do the necessary math operations, yet answer incorrectly because they do not clearly comprehend what the question is asking them to do. Others may be confused about the math operations needed for the problem. Those who struggle with both the reading and the math face the biggest challenges. These youngsters are the least successful with math word problems, performing worse than students with only math difficulties or students experiencing neither reading nor math difficulties (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2002). Literacy coaches charged with helping teachers support students as readers, often focus on literary texts. Less attention is given to helping teachers support students to read math. Drawing on their experiences as elementary school teachers, a college faculty member who coordinates a literacy tutoring program, and a computer scientist who works on the design of intelligent tutoring systems, the authors focus this article on strategies for addressing the reading challenges found in math word problems. Using fourth grade questions from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test, they identify seven specific word and math language comprehension challenges. For each challenge, they propose strategies that literacy coaches and teachers can use to support students in understanding and solving math word problems. (Contains 1 figure.)
Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse. National Council of Teachers of English 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Fax: 217-328-9645; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 4
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Literacy Coaching Clearinghouse (LCC)
Identifiers - Location: Massachusetts