Mathematics Literacy and the Role of the Principal

Written By dwalker

On August 3, 2010

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The new Common Core Standards should help promote deeper student understanding of mathematics concepts and processes.  In applying these standards to the classroom, teachers will need to expand their pedagogy in ways that help students learn mathematics at a deeper and more integrated level.  One way to do that is to have teachers apply literacy strategies to teaching mathematics, that is, reading, writing, speaking and listening.

For students to acquire more than a superficial understanding of mathematics, especially in middle and high schools, they need opportunities to read about, discuss, and write about mathematics.  One characteristic of mathematics instruction in other countries like Japan is that students are presented with extended investigations and charged with formulating solutions in groups.  Working in this fashion allows students to apply literacy strategies in service of increasing their own understanding of mathematics concepts. When students read and analyze problems together, discuss possible solutions and write about the process they followed to arrive at those solutions, they are able to master concepts and achieve at higher levels.

What does this mean for the principal?   The new standards are important but not sufficient to change classroom practice.  It is how they are implemented that is key, and the principal plays an important role in helping teachers to implement those standards in ways that translate into increased student learning.  In supervising teachers, observing classrooms and leading professional discussions, the principal can expect and encourage teachers to use literacy strategies–reading, writing, listening and speaking–to help students learn and apply mathematics concepts, and meet the new Common Core Standards.