Challenges for students as they interact with mathematical textbooks
Begin this section by watching the following short video:
If you find yourself identifying with the student in this video, you already have some idea about the challenges that students face when interacting with mathematical textbooks. There appears to be a common perception that math textbooks are hard, some even say impossible, to read. Faced with trying to read a math book, students often express frustration, anger, and hopelessness. These concerns may be rooted in the very nature of written mathematical communication. To explore some of the challenges in written mathematical texts, please follow the link to a textbook reading activity.
Mathematics is often communicated using multiple types of representations - words, symbols, graphs, charts and other representations are often used together to explain a single idea. Use of these different representations together often means that a mathematical textbook is not even read strictly left to right and top to bottom like other texts. On single textbook page, the reader might need to read a few words, then look over to a graph, look up at an equation written in symbols above the graph, then return to the spot in the text only to find that, instead of words, there is now a table of numbers related to the equation and text and graph. To understand the concept, the reader must not only interpret each of the different representations but also consider how they are related to one another.