Reading comprehension is important to student success, regardless of discipline. Students who are strong readers tend to have a deeper understanding of the texts they read and engage in critical thinking.
Although students may practice reading strategies in their English courses, research indicates that discipline-specific reading practice benefits students by helping them better understand the discipline and encouraging retention of the content taught (Butler 160). Additionally, helping students be proficient in the language of the discipline, including symbols and non-verbal representations, can impact success in the discipline (Mason et al). Students frequently struggle with reading comprehension in math. These difficulties include “insufficient prior knowledge that comes from underdeveloped concept images; … dealing with the syntax and precision of mathematical definitions, examples, and exposition in mathematical writing; and … grounding the abstractness of mathematical ideas in concrete objects or actions while reading” (Shepherd et al. 6).
To help students improve their reading comprehension, they need to be taught specific strategies for reading comprehension. Although reading comprehension can be discipline-specific, strategies used in other disciplines (like English) can be used to help students improve their comprehension in math (Shepherd et al. 8). These strategies include using pre-reading strategies, reading a text multiple times, using graphic organizers for vocabulary, exploring denotative differences in vocabulary words that are domain-specific, connecting reading to prior knowledge through various scaffolds, structural analysis of texts, active reading, and utilizing examples and non-examples (Butler 167-173; Shepherd et al. 19-22). The practice of reading comprehension strategies in Soar Towards Success will introduce students to a variety of scaffolds and approaches that they can apply in other courses, including their first college-level math course, to help them complete courses successfully.