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Reading Textbooks

September 20, 2012

As a teacher of mathematics I know the importance of assumptions. They exist in almost every problem students work on. Today I realized that one of my assumptions was not true. I had always assumed that students had been taught how to read informational text, in particular math textbooks. After all as a middle school teacher the students in my class have been using them for a few years.

Don’t get me wrong I have spent time explaining the parts of the textbook as they come up in the normal course of events. It is also probable that many students had been shown the parts of the textbook and how to use all parts effectively in the course of their classes. Regardless students were at differing levels of proficiency and a review seemed necessary. As a result, I spent some time explaining how to use the textbook to get the most out of it. This includes:

  • the purpose of chapter goals and learning outcomes
  • why it is important to read the section before the questions
  • where key terms can be found
  • how to use the table of contents
  • how a math glossary differs from a dictionary
  • the purpose of the index and how to use it
  • chapter summaries
  • chapter reviews and tests

At the end of the class I was pleased that all students learned something from our discussion and I had learned two lessons:

  • be careful with assumptions
  • the importance of helping students access the full use of their materials.
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