One of the things you would see if you were to observe my mathematics teaching is that we spend a lot of time reading aloud, decoding, and rereading all kinds of texts.
A LOT of time.
We read word problems and problem set-ups aloud, we read instructions aloud, and we read texts by mathematicians and scientists aloud. We read texts and scripts that I have written out loud and we read texts that students have written out loud. We read boring stuff and serious stuff and whatever silly stuff I can sneak into an investigation set-up.
And what this has taught me is that all students need to do a lot more reading aloud in math class.
Research shows that kids whose parents read to them early become fluent and confident lifelong readers. I used to think that only high-poverty kids don't get much opportunity to be read to, but now I can confidently tell you that kids in wealthy communities need this too. Even kids with many advantages whose parents did and/or do read to them early and diligently are often still weak readers by the eighth, ninth, or tenth grades.
And what I have learned is that even well-trained students need and benefit from regular and intensive practice in reading aloud in their math class.
They need more than just primitive "reading comprehension" skills. They need practice in what gets called "textual response and analysis" in the ELA standards, in spite of the fact that these are actually just fundamental literacy skills for anyone who hopes to gain access to the kinds of career opportunities that provide socio-economic mobility.
Reading aloud, like counting circles, is a bedrock practice for students. It is often a great leveler and differentiator in the math classroom. When I announce that I need six readers for the overview we are going to dissect to begin a class, I routinely get three times as many volunteers as that. Even my most discouraged math learners will volunteer to read aloud. Reading is a window into another world. And it's an activity in which every learner can be actively included. It's an equal opportunity invitation into the concert of intention.
And as I often tell my students, much of adult life consists of responding to badly written instructions for ill-defined tasks. Doing your taxes, interpreting and responding to job posting, following your boss' instructions, interpreting conflicting instructions in e-mail sent by customers or clients with competing or downright troubling motivations.
So this is my plea to everybody to consider adding reading aloud as one more practice in your quest to introduce low-barrier-to-entry, high-ceiling problem solving in your classroom.