As a mathematics teacher I have a tendency not to think about literacy as much as I should.  Yet literacy is arguably the most important life skill that an individual can learn and possess.  In this class I have come to understand that literacy means much more than being able to read and write.  Literacy is the ability to understand what is being communicated and rearticulating it through personal expression regardless of the particular medium.  In a culture where written language is quickly losing its position as the more predominant medium it is essential that we as teachers help students to become literate in music, film, mathematical or scientific expressions, and as many of the other mediums as possible.  In addition to being able to interpret these various mediums students need to learn how to use them to communicate their own ideas.  So while my main goal will always be to help students see the beauty of mathematics, if I neglect to teach literacy alongside, all my work will amount to nothing for they will not be able to understand or articulate what I am trying to teach.

Reading is an important part of every classroom regardless of the subject area and not just because students need to learn how to read, though that is certainly true.  Through reading students gain a new way of learning and of obtaining new information.  A teacher who teaches her student how to read well is essentially teaching them how to become lifelong learners.  Reading extends beyond the written word on the page in most subjects, and this is particularly true in mathematics.  Students need to learn to read tables, equations, and graphs just as much as essays and poems.   Of course I intend for my students to read articles and biographies and other typical types of text  as well, but I believe that math literacy is too often overlooked and neglected in favor of strict memorization.  Because of this learning to read mathematics will be the primary form of reading in my classroom.

The other side of the literacy coin is writing, which is equally important, but often overlooked or addressed in a superficial manner.  Writing is a process of making meaning and then sharing what has been learned with those who would read it.  Again this finds particular applications in the field of mathematics such as in writing proofs or writing up reports of labs or activities.  This is a very different form of writing from the history report of poem found in other classes and some might call it less practical for life outside school.  Yet the same number of students will likely make their fortune writing poetry as writing proofs, and for those that do not there is still something to be learned from each exercise.  Writing is the process of organizing thoughts into a clear flow with beginning, middle, and end so that some goal is reached.  Nothing reinforces this more than the logical thinking required to construct an elegant proof.  Lab reports are also valuable as students learn what it means to write precisely and accurately as a scientist might.  I believe that every type of writing has something to be learned from it and hope to incorporate as many types as possible into my classroom, but I feel a particular need to emphasize mathematical writing, because I know that if I neglect it students may never have a chance to work with it at all.

I no longer consider myself simply a mathematics teacher, but also a teacher of literacy.  This does not change what content I teach, or how much of it I can cover in a school year because at its heart true learning is literacy.  It is understanding what is presented and then making and articulating personal meaning.  Incorporating literacy into my classroom on a daily basis will allow my students to learn how to read and write about mathematics in a variety of forms and they will emerge better prepared for whatever life holds as a result of it.