Connecting Math and Literacy

A few years ago, I started really studying the Standards for Math Practices during a math leadership meeting.  Our team began using the SMPs to drive our goals for our CGI lessons each week {read about that in another blog.}

As I began using these as goals for my teaching, not only did I see immediate improvement in my student’s thinking, but my instruction was more focused.  Our share time was more focused.  My one on one conferences were more focused.

And then one day, it hit me….these Standards for Math Practices aren’t just great in math…they’re fantastic in literacy too!  Almost every single SMP has a literacy application as well and so I began helping my first graders see those connections over the last few years.

And it truly has made a huge difference! Here are the connections I try to make with each practice….

#1 Make sense of the problem and persevere >> Comprehension in reading
#2 Reason abstractly and quantitatively >> does it make sense? decoding words
#3 Construct viable arguments >> ummm, construct viable arguments in literacy…. 🙂
#4 Model with math >> explain/justify your answers in reading response or writing prompts
#5 Use tools appropriately >> Literacy tools (pencil, journals, books, dictionaries, supplies…)
#6 Attend to precision >> spelling, editing, revising, rereading, sounding out words
#7 Look for and use structure >> story structure and non-fiction features
#8 Look for and express repeated reasoning and regularity >> phonics and spelling patterns

Really, the connections are endless once you get started!

Here’s an example from just this year!  This past week, our SMP goal has been #6: Attend to precision.  As I’ve bloggved before, I introduce each practice with motions to incorporate some Total Physical Response to help kids remember.  This one is making a big circle with your pointer finger and then pointing the finger straight in the middle of the “circle” you made on “precision”–like you are hitting the target!  We charted what attending to precision means the first time this was our goal and continued to revisit those things this week…

And precision was our topic all during conferencing and share time…specifically coming up with some sort of tracking system to keep track of what you’ve counted.  We weren’t quite ready for that earlier in the year.  I have so many kids not counting by ones anymore, BUT they are making counting mistakes because they don’t have a way to keep track of which numbers they’ve added/subtracted….

Here are some of the results of our “precision” and tracking system focus from this week…

Even though this little one is still working on smaller numbers and holding on to counting by ones, we shared hers and I praised her for labeling her counting and labeling each person’s set of dollars with our names!

Love how this kiddo labeled each box, labeled the answer, and if you look closely you can see her checking off marks under her “7” in 73! {And how ’bout that super notation too?? Who says first graders don’t have great math thinking???}

 This guy’s checking system is a little clearer {look at the check marks under each 10 of his equation.}  This was interesting to me because usually I model checking off in their thinking instead of the equation, but he figured out a way to make it work and I loved it!

Here’s another kiddo checking off his thinking as he adds his numbers.  These are the kinds of strategies where I see kids make mistakes year after year…Their thinking is great and at that high relational level where we want them to be, but they just “forget” to add part of the number after they break down numbers into 10s and 1s.  So, checking off as he goes is a great way for this kid {and so many other now thanks to his sharing!} to attend to precision!

Then today (Friday) we worked on editing our writing.  As I’ve blogged before, each Friday we focus on editing or revising with partners or as a group using our self-assessing checklists.  We talked about editing being the way we catch our mistakes in writing and just like that someone blurted out, “Just like we catch our mistakes in math!”

Don’t you love it when that happens?  It was one of those moments that rarely ever happens in my teaching world where my students actually read my mind! 🙂

So, I helped solidify this connection from math to literacy by saying, “In math we have been working on developing a checking system to catch our mistakes or prevent our mistakes.  And today in writing, you will be editing some writing to help catch my mistakes!” #angelicchoruses

Here’s what we did:  We worked as a whole group to edit a reading passage from my American Contributors Unit on MLK and found capitalization errors.  I showed them how to “notate” {another math word} their edits for capitals and they even got to use our special felt pens as editing pens!

I even had them each develop their own tracking system for making sure they found the correct number of mistakes {I have the number of mistakes on the star of each passage}.

Then, they worked as a group to play, Pass the Pen–a class favorite which I’ve blogged about before–to find punctuation mistakes in the same article.

I loved being able to make connections between math and literacy and I think it just makes the learning that much more powerful when we provide opportunities for kids to connect across subject areas!

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