Incorporating Literacy in the Language of Numbers

Placeholder ImageWhen joining my first school as a NQT I had to embark on the challenge of teaching an additional subject, Psychology. I qualified with a PGCE in Mathematics therefore the challenge of teaching an additional subject and that being a humanities subject meant I had to learn to incorporate a lot more literacy within my lessons. But why should we not place a higher emphasis on literacy within mathematics lessons though?

My plan of action is to observe a science lesson as Mathematics and Psychology both include mathematics to a certain extent (research methods). I hope by making these observations I will see a variety of strategies that encourage a high level of literacy within the lesson and be able to apply these within my own lessons.

Observation: 8th May 2017

Setting the Context

  • Learning objectives displayed on the board as students walked into the room to almost set the tone for the lesson.
  • The keywords were highlighted in bold (definitions are not displayed)

Deconstruction and Modelling 

  • Worksheets were designed with a set amount of lines for students to work on. Included key word tasks within hints on the length of the key terms.
  • Text was also modified by the teacher for this particular class to allow the students to focus on the key components of the lesson.

Joint Construction

  • Teacher went through the test and used students examples to help construct an answer and got the students to read aloud their own answers.
  • With the scientific formula the teacher read aloud then asked the students to separately read aloud the key terms and break down the algebraic notation included.

Speaking and Listening

  • The teacher used simplistic language when questioning the students to ensure they could comprehend what was being asked of them.
  • When talking and explaining to the whole class the teacher would use more elaborate language but would provide a definition for any word the teacher thought they would not be familiar with.

Key Findings

The strategies that the teacher used helped the students to be able to understand exactly what was being asked of them however, by using more elaborate language at times the students then became more exposed to a higher level of literacy.

The way in which the teacher edited the formal test I thought was especially good practice as they had adapted some of the language used to make it easier for the students to comprehend. When the teacher went over the test however she reworded the question back to its original wording to highlight to the students that they were being asked the same thing only the language being used was different.

Lastly the way in which the teacher modeled the answer by using other students examples I think increased the students literacy skills as it praised the student whose example it was. Using the students example could also make it easier for other students to comprehend what was being asked of them.


Within my lessons in future I will aim to adapt strategies from my observations to help aid students and focusing on these main area;

  • Spelling key terms correctly
  • Promoting the use of Mathematical language during lessons
  • Developing literacy through discussion
  • Using students’ examples with an emphasis on literacy (even punctuation and spelling)

I have included the spelling key terms correctly element because that is something that I have picked up on recently whilst teaching Geometry and identifying properties of a circle. Using mathematics language in my lessons and getting the students to speak and sound of the key terms regularly. Asking students to highlight these key words and placing a huge amount of emphasis on these key terms and their definitions. Getting students to talk to one another about the work and when they are doing this ensure they are using the proper language, key terms and definitions. Praising students work to highlight to them the importance of literacy within the mathematics lesson.

Final Thought

Without the observations and learning about the importance of literacy within the mathematics lesson I firmly believe I would not be placing literacy in such high regard. Having applied some of the teaching strategies with literacy I have found that students are beginning to interpret and understand functional questions and even attempting these questions on their own before asking for help.


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