Literacy strategies in Maths

30 May 2018

Developing literacy is important in all subjects, but it can present a particular challenge in Maths. Often whole-school policies and approaches are unhelpful - for example, we don't do enough extended writing to make the most of marking codes for SPAG.

In their best-practice case study, Embedding literacy across the curriculum (2012), Ofsted clarify:

Our message is that individual subjects create different language demands, which need to be identified and addressed within those subjects.

So this is the real question: what are the language demands in maths, and how can we address them?

Unfamiliar words

At every level, students need a broad vocabulary to access learning. As well as emphasising technical terms, we must also remember to explain Tier 2 words (such as 'maintain' or 'fortunate'), which may not be universally understood.

Interpreting text

There are many occasions in maths when students need to scan text to extract information. For example, when answering worded problems they begin by identifying the key facts and considering what the question is asking. Manipulating algebraic expressions, they scan to identify like terms and factors.

Explaining ideas

It's no use having great mathematical ideas if we can't communicate them clearly to others. Students need to be able to do this both verbally and in writing.


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