Read: To apprehend the meaning of a book, writing, etc. be perceiving the form and relation of the printed or written characters. Math is a language that people use to communicate, to solve problems, to engage in recreation, and to create works of art and mechanical tools. Not only does reading comprehension hinder mathematics learning, but the inability to decipher text code can be exacerbated in math with the addition of symbols and nonlinear presentation of information.
There are two types of problems in math--expressions and equations and word problems. Both pose their own issues from a reading comprehension viewpoint. With expressions and equations, students must understand the symbols used and the order in which to process the information. For example, the student needs to understand that an equal sign means "the same as" or "is," and that exponents must be completed prior to adding. Word problems tend to strike fear in the hearts of most math students because of the added layer of complexity. Words problems can be as simple as "Twenty-five is what percent of 50," to complex scenarios. Here not only do the problem solvers need to understand symbols and procedures, but now translation is required to put words into math sentences.
So how can we help mathematics students with reading comprehension difficulties? As math teachers, we need to be well versed in reading comprehensions strategies and modify them for mathematical comprehension purposes.
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