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.

Teaching literacy with other subject areas saves you time because there’s only so much time in a school day, and we must be strategic in how we utilize that time.

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

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 your kiddos are already using these thinking strategies during literacy block, they should be able to easily 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.

Project-based learning is a buzzword in education these days and rightfully so; any opportunity that makes the learning process more authentic is welcomed and encouraged.

A few years ago, I stumbled upon these A-M-A-Z-I-N-G math project ideas and decided to use them for literacy purposes as well.

Here’s what I did…

I divided learners into groups of 3 or 4, gave each a math project idea from the menu of choices, and told them to go for it!

They were responsible for READING all instructions, conducting the appropriate research (more reading), and completing the actual project (writing plus more reading). I facilitated as needed but gave no answers.

What success they had!

Not only did I assess their math skills, but while they completed each stage of the project, I was able to observe their thinking processes in relation to reading and writing skills/strategies.

I took anecdotal notes and used 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.

If you’re not familiar with these wonderful classroom plays, 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.

We’re most familiar with using graphic organizers in reading and writing, but they’re easily used for math, too!

integrating math and literacy

A few 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.

The concept map is useful for analyzing key terms in math.

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 students have a great reference guide to refer to as needed.

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.

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integrating literacy and math

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 you 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 students “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 students fill it out with the appropriate information.

integrating math and literacy

Story frames are great for struggling readers and writers who need the extra support.

The frames are equally beneficial for ESL learners.

Don’t Forget About Word Problems.

Solving word problems during math block is the norm, but go a step further and have students 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 students write haikus or cinquains about different shapes/solids. 

Want students to improve their fluency and reading comprehension?

Have them 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.

When you seamlessly integrate the two, you really become a teacher super hero!

The planning and prep time you save is a reward in and of itself.

Who doesn’t love to knock out two birds with one stone?

Happy teaching and learning