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Math and Literacy

by Early Math Counts

Do you remember kids who were good at math, but not so good at reading and social studies?  I do.  It seemed like people fell into two groups; those who were good at math and those who were good at reading.  Nowadays, it is impossible to be good at math if you are not a good reader.

At my children’s school, all of the math was written in prose and the children were expected to write all of their math answers out in prose.  That meant there were no more worksheets that just had numbers on them.  They had to read through the math and respond in the same way. It looked something like this…


If Mr. Brown went to the store with 3 dollars and he spent 2 dollars, how many dollars did Mr. Brown have left?

Children would then write…

Mr. Brown had 1 dollar left.

If they just wrote “1” it was marked wrong.  Language was a part of the math and was required for correctness.

Later, their problems looked like this…

There is a train going 25 miles an hour east toward New York.  If the train travels 12 hours and New York is 650 miles away, how many hours are left of the train trip?

The answer to this one was a big old paragraph, and the children had to explain, in writing, how they figured it out.

Back in the day, I would have written “14 hours” and might have shown some of my work like this…

25 X 12 = 300 miles already traveled

650-300= 350 miles left

350/25=14 hours left

What do you think?  Should there be ways that children can do math without having to read and write or is this simply good educational practice for all people?




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