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Topic: numeracy and literacy
Replies: 1   Last Post: May 31, 2003 1:22 AM

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Mark Schwartz

Posts: 48
Registered: 12/6/04
numeracy and literacy
Posted: May 30, 2003 12:17 PM
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A few comments extending Martha's posting on numeracy/literacy...

Yesterday I immersed my basic math students in working through verbal
(story, word, etc.) problems (that we call them that to begin with is

I teach 3 sections and in each section, at least one student commented on
the complexity of being able to see the math hidden in the words, even
though the numbers are obvious. Most students see verbal problems as
containing "tricks". We talked about this and agreed that it's very hard to
tease out the math relationships that are embedded in the language. So we
devised a general principle of a broad strategy for working on these kinds
of problems. There are 3 keys to look for in verbal problems: (1)
information, (2) relationships, and (3) what's the question. The issue is
which words identify, or go with, each of these 3 parts. What I found
amazing was how well the students could parse the sentences given these 3
broad categories but at the same time I noticed that their command of the
language kept them from seeing some of the words as "connectors", or those
words describing relationships.

It seems that math, in general, has been sterilized by removing it from
real context and oversimplified it's significance. It has been seen as
something independent of the ordinary and common daily actions, and thus it
has been made mystical, magical, and not available to the general public.
But, this is exactly what happens with language as well, if it's not taught
in context.

I agree with Martha that perhaps the reluctance has to do with some
language instructors feeling uncomfortable with math, but at the same time
we might reassure them that we are sometimes uncomfortable with language.
The key point however, is neither math or language instructors but rather
the students. As long as ABE systems are exclusionary, then students will
continue to see it as we see it - non-integratable, specialized, and each
area containing its' uniqueness when indeed there is considerable overlap
if we choose to see it that way ... later ... mark

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