TEACHING TIP CONNECTING MATHEMATICAL STRATEGIES

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3 473 habit of mind. Mathematics teaching that enables children to articulate their thinking when solving problems helps comprehension (Kazemi, 1998). Monitoring problem solving, like monitoring reading comprehension, can help students identify mistakes and repair misunderstandings. Determining Importance Another strategy for comprehending both narrative and expository texts is the process of determining what parts of a text are most important. To guide students use of this strategy, a teacher might use prompts such as, Tell me the most important parts of what you just read or Think about the main idea of this paragraph. To determine importance, students need to have a good understanding of genrespecific text structures and features. Teachers can help students develop this understanding through explicit, scaffolded instruction. For example, a lesson about expository texts with a compare and contrast structure might focus on common organizational patterns and key words and phrases (e.g., similar, likewise, however, on the other hand). A teacher might then have students use graphic organizers to support them in identifying important points and details as they read texts with that structure (NRP, 2000). This kind of instruction can help students differentiate between essential information (e.g., environmental hazards are affecting frog populations worldwide ) and appealing but extraneous details (e.g., goliath frogs are nearly 12 inches long ). By determining the importance of information in a text, young readers focus on essential ideas and build a mental structure of the text. Similar processes are at work in mathematics. To solve the mathematical problems they encounter, students need to have strategies for determining what information is important to the problem and what information is extraneous (Carpenter, Fennema, Franke, Levi, & Empson, 1999). As with reading other types of texts, teachers can help students determine importance in mathematical problems by focusing on structures, using graphic organizers, and identifying Figure Problem-Solving Sample key words common to different problem types. The Figure shows an algebraic patterning problem that includes a combination of essential and extraneous information. In problems such as these, real-life connections can distract students with seductive details and can hinder their problem-solving efforts. For example, a student s interest in the types of muffins produced or the cost of the muffins could divert him or her from

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