Learning Math Through Literacy

Many people think of math and reading as separate subjects. While the skills involved in each are quite different, there are so many ways and reasons to connect them. Aside from having students read and solve word problems, there are lots of other creative ways to integrate math and literacy. Here are some of our favorite integration strategies.

Math Stories

These math learning activities take word problems to the next level. As the name suggests, math stories combine two essential components of both math and literature: computation and story-line. Through the components of a story, students keep track of totals, calculate differences, compare quantities, and so on. This is a great way to have students practice both reading comprehension and math skills all in one shot.

Writing About Math

Some students become perplexed when we ask them to write about math. They think math is supposed to use numbers, not words. But demonstrating their understanding and their processing of math topics with words in addition to numbers not only allows them to practice writing, but it also helps them develop new ways to talk about and engage with math concepts.


Teachers incorporate read-alouds into all kinds of subject areas other than the reading block, so why not math? There are plenty of books out there that contain explanations and examples of math concepts, as well as actual opportunities for students to practice those skills. With careful selection of the right read-aloud, students have the opportunity to work together on solving problems in new ways with teacher guidance.

Math Journals

Journaling isn’t just for writing and social studies. Math journals are another great way to have students reflect on their mathematical thinking and reason about math using words. Math journaling gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their thinking in a way that may feel more comfortable to them. It also addresses different learning styles. Some students do much better expressing themselves through a paragraph than through a string of number sentences.

Teach Math Vocabulary

Teaching math vocabulary often involves introducing a word and showing enough examples of it for students to understand its meaning. However, it often doesn’t go further than that. Just as we explicitly teach vocabulary in other content areas, we should also make space for explicit instruction in math vocabulary as well. In addition to demonstrating understanding of these words through actual problem-solving, students can also use these words in other ways. Create a math word wall, or have students create their own with definitions, examples, sentences, etc. Or have students use these words in their own math problems. The more familiar they become with math vocabulary, the more articulately they’ll be able to communicate about math concepts.

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