Reading in Mathematics
What Does the Research Literature Say?
What does the research literature say about the impact of these kinds of protocols on mathematics reading and sense making? Can these kinds of protocols help students make sense of a broad range of mathematics materials, including mathematics texts and other resources? Several researchers (Borasi, Seigel, Fonzi, & Smith, 1998) pursued this question by examining the use of “transactional reading strategies” in high school mathematics classrooms—meaning strategies designed to help students actively negotiate interpretations of text using their knowledge of language and their knowledge of the world.
The researchers explored the use of several protocols that high school mathematics teachers used to support student reading and sense making of a variety of mathematics texts. One important feature of the use of these protocols was that students were expected to stop and share questions and interpretations with a partner as they made their way through the material. Another important feature was that whole-class discussions followed the reading of these texts in order for students to share and discuss their interpretations of the material together.
These researchers found that the use of protocols combined with opportunities for students to share and discuss their interpretations of the texts did in fact provide students with effective strategies for understanding the mathematics content addressed in texts and also contributed to the development of new mathematical insights about that mathematics content. These findings suggest that sense-making protocols, while very useful tools for helping students read and make sense of mathematics materials, may be even more powerful when supported by small-group and whole-class discussion.