Helping Math Students Think Critically About What They Read

Toolkit Overview

The toolkit item we have created is an anticipation guide geared toward supporting students in engaging in mathematical text. This item is a document consisting of statements that are sometimes, always, or never true. Students begin by taking a guess (first intuition) at which classification each question falls under. Then, students are asked to engage with a piece of text to support or refute their claims citing definitions, examples, or counterexamples to support their new reasoning. The problem of practice this tool is intending to address is supporting students in being able to derive meaning when engaging with mathematical text without the guidance of their instructor and/or making meaning by accessing other materials beyond the textbook in support of their learning.

As we all know, many students enter college with poor note-taking skills due to their need to copy down every word from a lecture or lesson. This toolkit item aims to assist students in developing the reading comprehension and analysis skills required to support them in making meaning from mathematical text without the assistance of their instructor. The end result of the use of our toolkit item would be for students to access a piece of mathematical text and have the ability to take meaningful notes that they could use to accurately support their understanding of the concept. In conjunction, this item would support students in their ability to develop critical questions that identify the key information from a piece of mathematical text.

Resources Used to Inform this Toolkit

Adams, A. E., Pegg, J., & Case, M. (2015). Anticipation Guides: Reading for Mathematics Understanding. The Mathematics Teacher,108(7), 498. doi:10.5951/mathteacher.108.7.0498

Kahn, P. (2010). Annotating mathematical material: a route to developing holistic understanding and learner autonomy. MSOR Connections,10(1), 25-28. doi:10.11120/msor.2010.10010025

Our toolkit item is derived closely from the work outlined in two articles, Anticipation Guides: Reading for Mathematics Understanding and Annotating mathematical material: a route to developing holistic understanding and learner autonomy. This article outlines the need for anticipation guides to support the meaning made when students read mathematical text. This article supports thr notion of selecting statements for an always, sometimes, never anticipation guide (such as the one we have generated) in a fashion that highlights key misconceptions, big ideas, and other critical information. This article was also the support for the protocol of providing students an opportunity to make a guess using their intuition and then supporting them in further diving into the text and citing evidence to support their claim, thus potentially revising their thinking.

Key Lessons Learned 

One of the two most critical lessons that were learned by our cohort over the course of this project was that students are oftentimes unfamiliar with the structure of mathematical text. That is, not only are they unsure of the math going on in the text, but they are also unsure of where to look to identify the big ideas of a mathematical text. The second lesson that was learned was the need to structure students in ways that allow them to share their thinking verbally in addition to through written word. The necessity for this stems from the learning and understanding that can shine through in a verbal conversation in ways that are more challenging to identify through written conversation.

Comprehensive Guide to Utilizing Our Tool in Your Classroom

Meet Our Cohort

Our Problem of Practice and Common Core State Standards

Research Informing Our Work

Our Intervention

Determining Effectiveness


What We Learned

Our Tools

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