To help work on listening skills in the mathematics classroom, try mathematizing a read-aloud text, as Hintz and Smith* suggest. According to the authors, mathematizing is the process of “weaving together read-alouds, mathematics, and discussion to deepen student learning.”
Hintz and Smith suggest a three-step process. The first is text selection. Teachers should start by selecting a read-aloud text that features math, highlights mathematical ideas, or contains visuals for exploring mathematical concepts. Various books lend themselves to focusing on different text features. They write, “Picture books, for example, may be used to investigate mathematically interesting illustrations, whereas chapter books may be used to discuss story events from a mathematical perspective.” After selecting a text, the teacher should prepare it for discussion by noting places to stop and generating questions that will prompt and deepen student learning.
The second step is to explore the read-aloud text by “engaging students in lively discussion before, during, and after reading.” In this stage, students pay attention to the mathematics involved, record and share their mathematical representation strategies, and share how and why they represented their mathematical thinking during the listening experience.Each stage of discussion is important because each serves a different purpose. These discussions can help to:
- Before Reading: Activate prior knowledge, establish purpose, create predictions.
- During: Focus on particular points, generate questions, make new predictions.
- After: Deeply examine ideas and math concepts, and connect those to personal knowledge and experiences.
The third step of the process is for extending the text: “One way to extend the text is to delve more deeply into discussion of key ideas, emphasizing mathematical applications or connections between concepts and personal experience.” They also recommend writing or drawing in response to a prompt — perhaps having students apply their understandings by creating a variation of the story with a different mathematical concept. All of these steps may take several read-alouds, or listenings, for students to fully appreciate or understand the mathematics involved.
The read-aloud and mathematization process can be made into a group endeavor, as an example, by having one student record his or her ideas in numbers, one in words, one in pictures and one in bar models or graphs. The students could then turn-and-talk or look-and-listen to further practice and deepen their mathematical thinking, along with their speaking and active listening skills.
Several suggested picture books: Among the Odds and Evens: A Tale of Adventure by Priscilla Turner, Double Those Wheels, by Nancy Raines Day, Mummy Math: An Adventure in Geometry, by Cindy Neuschwander, Ten Flashing Fireflies, by Philemon Sturges, Math Fables: Lessons That Count by Greg Tang, and The Doorbell Rang, by Pat Hutchins.
For older students, try texts such as: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, One Grain of Rice by Demi, The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan, or The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. There are also many classic problems that could make great listening texts for even older students, such as “The Camel and the Bananas Problem,” or one of my favorites, “The Missing Dollar Riddle.”
*Hintz, A. and Smith, A. (2013). Mathematizing read-alouds in three easy steps. The Reading Teacher, 67(2), pgs. 103-108.
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