Technical and math texts often pose comprehension problems even for the best readers. To help your students tackle this difficult genre, model the following strategies.
Slow down! Difficult, unfamiliar, and technical texts require a different speed limit than other reading. If fiction is a 55-mph limit, then math reading should rate a 5-mph zone. Students should put the brakes on and digest the reading little by little rather than speeding through it.
Have students insert pauses between words or phrases while they read. Some of the sentences in a math problem or explanatory text can be lengthy. One way to help students slow their reading rate is to encourage them to add more commas (more pauses) in the text.
When possible, students should read with a pencil in hand. They should mark (underline, circle, star, etc.) the text as they read. Encourage them to draw or sketch information as they read. Interacting with the text increases engagement and understanding.
Challenge students to make connections, to notice how ideas from the text relate to things they know. Tell students to ask themselves What is this like? while they read. For example, when learning about probability, connect the concept to the likelihood of winning the lottery. When introducing slope, students can think of a skateboard ramp. Helping them see simple connections can make the concepts stick.
One last tip–remind students that numbers can be written in many different forms. Show your students how to recognize numbers even when they’re written differently. Numbers can be written out in words (one half), in fractions (1/2), with decimals (.5), and in pictures. Prepare students for all the possibilities.