Back to: Module: Helping Students Do Math

Math textbooks are quite different from typical books, and even from most other types of textbooks. The way students read a math textbook can impact their attitude towards math and how much math they actually learn. Here are some of the main points from this unit that can help you ensure that students get the most out of their math textbooks.

- Math textbooks are written in ways to help readers become active participants in reading them. Sitting down and reading straight through a section of a math textbook can be both unproductive and frustrating. Ideally, students should have a pencil and paper at hand for working out examples while reading the textbook.
- Not every word in a math textbook is created equal. The most important concepts in any section of a math textbook can typically be condensed down to a few sentences. Have students use cues such as special boxes, boldface text, and italicized phrases to identify the main concepts in a section. Then encourage students to spend extra time trying to understand those concepts.
- If students repeatedly have trouble connecting with the style used by a particular textbook, help them find another textbook that might be a better fit.
- It is worthwhile for students to spend extra time learning new terms and concepts with precision. Math is like a foreign language; the better you understand the individual terms, the more you can be fluent with the larger concepts. The Frayer Model is an excellent tool for learning new terms and concepts.
- When working through textbook problems, students should check answers frequently (if possible). Immediate feedback can help prevent spending unnecessary time and energy doing problems incorrectly.
- Students should use all available resources! So should the teacher and paraprofessional. For example, your ability to help students might be improved by reviewing the special notes included in the teacher’s manual or online resources provided by the publisher to supplement the textbook.
- Be sure that students have a system for jotting down and getting answers to their questions when they are reading material in a math textbook. For example, they might get answers through Internet searches or by asking a teacher.

Using these seven tips, you can help transform the textbook for students from a boring collection of unfamiliar symbols into a central tool to support their math learning!