Reading Comprehension and Math Problem Solving

Posted on October 28, 2014


When I interviewed to work at The New Community School, I asked with incredulity:  Did they *teach* reading comprehension?  I’d found lots of resources that provided practice… at various levels… but for as long as I’d remembered, you just understood what stuff said, or you asked about the thing you were reading…

I learned to teach reading comprehension.    Students were given groups of things to categorize, name… to recognize the difference between a category and an example of that category at a concrete level; early exercises included “list 25 things you’d see at a soccer game” and then categorizing those things.   (They were all catered to the student’s interest and soccer was a big deal for my kiddos.)   Hey, wander over to and I’ve put lots of the stuff online.

Notice that students didn’t learn a list of Reading Comprehension Strategies; rather, they practiced organizing concrete things and ideas and then moved to abstract ones.

I think math problem solving is in the same category.   Most of us learn it by … doing it, and gradually doing harder and harder things.   People like me learn to apply verbal logic to things; other people visualize.  I think there’s a lot of room for development of teaching strategies to give students practice organizing things and ideas mathematically.

I’m figuring it out for learning organizing programming, too… my app has ground my computer to a sllluuuggggissshhh crawl too often so I’m going to assume it’s just gotten too big for its breeches.   I still need to figure out SharedPreferences (but was going to do that with something different than the “list of questions” per our assignment example of last semester) and apply the animation where I want it to go, but… I’ve got too many activities in one app (I hope!).

So I’m going to work on that ‘inheritance’ thing… I need to figure out what elements of a number line are the same for everybody, and what I need to change… and happily I *think* I solved the issue of how to structure the inheritance… helped by Not Thinking About It For A While (and by trying to write it out as a StackOverflow question).

Which brings me back to that comprehension thing.   How can we get our students to the point where their understanding is solid enough so that the back of their minds shake things down and come up with solutions?   For the students who are afraid of math, it isn’t likely to happen by itself…

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