Reading Apprenticeship and Math Part 2: Talking to the Text

As mentioned here, I’m participating in a fantastic professional development series on Reading Apprenticeship in my school district.  As a math teacher, I was driven to explore ways to pull in reading strategies to my classroom since the curriculum we use is heavy on reading.  

Many of our students are 1-2 grade levels below where they should be in reading.  What I’ve learned through this training is that so many of our intensive reading programs designed to help students become “better” readers focus more on fluency and decoding and less on comprehension.  This leads students to believe that to be a “great reader” they need to read quickly and fluidly.  Comprehension takes a back seat.  


Example of a word problem in the Grade 7 workbook. Oy vey!


Example of a crazy-difficult problem that my Math 8 students historically have trouble understanding.

Just LOOK at those problems!  I’m here to tell you that even I had to re-read these several times to understand what the heck was being asked…and I’m *ahem* several years older than my students.  

Hence, the need for some good strategies.  

Enter, Reading Apprenticeship.

And here’s where we went with it:

I took a typical problem and did a think-aloud.  I spoke what my brain was thinking as I worked through reading a problem. I didn’t even attempt to solve or build an equation or anything mathematical.  I.  Just.  Read.  And talked.  And re-read.  And talked some more.  And talked to the text (took notes…CRAZY notes) all over the problem.  Then I stopped.  

I asked students to discuss in their small groups what they heard me say and saw me do.  

And we made lists.  


Strategies lists from 4 of 5 of my classes. You see some talking to the text above the lists.

I took the lists and combined them:

And we have a living list!  We will continue to add as we go, but what a great start!  

And here is what my 8th grade students were able to do with it (the first three problems were teacher models, the last two were done in groups):


My favorite because of the question he asks to the left of #4–how cool is that?


I love the modifications this student made, and the fact they added “conjunction” to their notes on #4.


We didn’t focus on correct equations, but rather on the talking-to-the-text process.

In all fairness, I can’t take total credit for their amazing-ness with this strategy.  They have been immersed in Reading Apprenticeship with two spectacular language arts teachers in our wing (7th and 8th grade) over the past two years.  I’m merely expanding the students’ Reading Apprenticeship universe.  

I’ll keep on with this, slowly and steadily getting the students to do it more independently.  My next wish is to develop their metacognition so they can think about their processes and understand when  and where they make mathematical mistakes.  For now, I’m very happy with where we’ve come.  

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