Integrating literacy and math is surprisingly easy.

With all of the things that we must teach in a school day, it’s necessary to find ways to cross the curriculum.

What makes reading and writing so special is that they can be paired with any subject or content area ~ even math.

In this article, you’ll discover 12 strategies for integrating literacy and math that you can pencil into your lesson plan book this week.

Related: See our list of literacy teaching strategies and activities for elementary students.

Integrating Literacy and Math: Reading Ideas

Do Interactive Read Alouds.

Complement your math units with books.

Whichever math skill you’re teaching, try to find a great picture book that lends itself well to that particular skill.

Let’s say, for instance, the target reading skill for a lesson in reader’s workshop is sequencing.  

If you’ll also be teaching about multiplication arrays in math, then choose an interactive read aloud book that focuses on multiplication arrays and also provides opportunities to focus on the sequencing skill.

The picture book One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes demonstrates this very well.

While the main objective of the book is obviously multiplication arrays, the clear sequence of events in the story targets the reading skill of sequencing almost effortlessly.

Encourage the Use of Reading Strategies for Solving Word Problems.

Have students utilize reading comprehension strategies to solve math problems which are essentially mini reading comprehension passages.

Here are a few strategies…

  • Questioning
  • Predicting
  • Summarizing
  • Inferring
  • Visualizing
  • Making Connections
  • Synthesizing
  • Using “Fix-Up” Strategies

Because learners are already using these thinking strategies during literacy block, they should be able to apply them when problem solving in math.

You may have to model a few times what this looks like, but they’ll get the gist of it quickly.

Incorporate Project-Based Learning.

Projects make the learning process more authentic.

Consider integrating literacy into these math project ideas.

Here’s how…

Divide learners into groups of 3 or 4, give each a math project idea from the menu of choices, and tell them to solve.

They will be responsible for reading all instructions, conducting the appropriate research (more reading), and completing the actual project (writing plus more reading).

Facilitate as needed but give no answers.

Furthermore, while learners are completing each stage of the project, observe their thinking processes as it relates to reading and writing skills/strategies.

Take anecdotal notes and use the information as informal assessment data.

Try Out Reader’s Theaters.

Integrating literacy into math is SO easy to do with reader’s theater scripts.

Take a look at the benefits of reader’s theaters and decide for yourself if you’d like to give them a try for integrating math and reading.

With readers’ theater scripts, kids get to learn about math (or any subject) through drama. They really love it.

Integrating Literacy and Math: Writing Ideas

Utilize Graphic Organizers.

Graphic organizers are common to use for reading and writing lessons, but they’re easily used for math, too.

integrating math and literacy

A couple of examples…

  • For the Venn Diagram, after students complete the organizer, have them write in their math journals a short paragraph about the differences between composite and prime numbers.
  • Analyze key math terms using a concept map.

The uses of graphic organizers for integrating writing and math are limitless.

Plan an Alphabet Book Project.

Alphabet books aren’t just for the lower grades.

Think of any math unit your class is learning about … let’s say measurement.

As a project, have students create an alphabet book of 27 pages – cover page + one page for each letter of the alphabet.

For each letter, they’ll write a word connected with the main theme (e.g probability) along with a detailed description or definition.

It must be in their own words and based on their research/prior knowledge. Relevant sketches or symbols are a great addition to each page.

Once all the pages are complete, bind them.  Now the kids have a great reference guide of key vocabulary.

Leave Space for a Math Word Wall.

Content word walls display vocabulary from a specific unit of study and aren’t usually common, everyday terms.

The key to any word wall is that it needs to be interactive.

Provide ample opportunities for your elementary students to use the words authentically.

Informally Assess Using Math Journals.

Use math journals to have learners respond to the math lesson. 

Ask students to record how they arrived at an answer, to explain their thinking in solving a word problem, or to note important vocabulary.

There are lots of possibilities for using a math journal. To get started, check out these great math question stems.

Take Advantage of Anchor Charts & Interactive Writing.

Well-crafted anchor charts are powerful teaching tools that help reinforce targeted skills, strategies, or steps.

The magic of them happens when students help in contributing content to the charts via interactive writing.

Interactive writing is teacher and learners “sharing the pen”.  

Integrating literacy into math this way encourages rich discussions about the targeted math objectives in addition to writing plus grammar rules.

Create Math Centers.

Kids love games.

Stretch their brains by having them create math centers or games, and make writing the instructions the primary focus.

You may want to create a whole class game first so that they better understand your expectations.

Consider Using Story Frames.

Assess how deep students comprehend math concepts using story frames. Create each story frame with a math theme in mind.

Let’s take for example, the topic of problem solving.

You make a skeleton, or frame, and then your little ones complete it.

integrating math and literacy

Story frames are great for struggling readers and writers who need the extra support such as ESL learners.

Don’t Forget About Word Problems.

Solving word problems during math block is the norm, but go a step further and have kids write a few original story problems.

This is a great way to sharpen writing chops and critical thinking skills.

As with most lessons, model a few times so that students are clear about the process and your expectations.

Implement Creative Writing Activities.

With creative writing exercises, integrating literacy into math becomes so much fun.

Studying poetry?

Then have learners write haikus or cinquains about different shapes/solids. 

Want them to improve their fluency and reading comprehension?

Then have students write and present reader’s theater scripts based on math themes.

The possibilities are endless. Get creative with it!

Wrapping Up – Integrating Math & Literacy in the Elementary Classroom

Integrating literacy and math just got a bit easier. The planning and prep time you save is a just reward.

Best