Math Literacy

Math LiteracyBelow is a class assignment and math literacy lesson plan that I created this year as part of my Colorado Work Sample. The Colorado Work Sample includes an entire Unit Plan comprised of 10-15 lessons based on standards from the Colorado Department of Education. This is an important requirement for receiving an alternative teaching license in Colorado. I chose a math fractions unit consisting of 12 lesson plans. A requirement for completing the Colorado Work Sample unit is to include reading and writing literacy in one or more of the lessons. Prior to beginning this unit, I had not given math literacy much, if any thought. Thankfully, one of my many excellent Regis instructors, taught an entire class on the subject of literacy in math. This had a profound impact me and on the teaching strategies I will continue to use to teach math from this point forward.

Before starting this particular lesson plan, my math lessons were rather dull and dry, full of raw numbers, teaching kids how to do the algorithms, but not focusing much on what it all means and how it is really used. The assignment required me to take a deeper look at story problems and the importance of reading and writing, literacy in understanding math.

Please feel free to copy and paste any portion of my lesson plan and assignment to use in your own classroom. You may alter the contents for your own needs and situation as you see fit.

Fourth Grade Math Literacy Assignment

by Rob Delisa

Step One: Reading in Math Literacy

After losing the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos decided they should have dinner. Only 10 players were hungry. The rest of them were sick to their stomachs from losing. Of the 10 hungry players, 6 decided to go out for Pizza and 4 went out for Mexican food. Peyton Manning was one of the 6 who wanted Pizza and he offered to buy. The 6 hungry players walked into Pizza Hut and ordered 3 Large Pizzas. 1 Large Pepperoni was cut into 16 slices. 1 large sausage pizza was cut into 8 slices and one large, hamburger pizza was sliced into 12 slices. . Eric Decker ate 4 Pepperoni Slices. Peyton Manning ate 3 slices of Sausage Pizza. Wes Welker ate 4 slices of hamburger pizza. Julius Thomas ate 6 slices of Pepperoni pizza. Montee Ball ate 2 slices of Sausage pizza and Jacob Tamme ate 5 slices of hamburger pizza.

Step Two: Applying the Math 

1. Altogether, how many slices of pizza were there before they started eating?
2. Of the 10 hungry players, what fraction of them went out for Pizza?
3. What fraction of the Pepperoni Pizza did Eric Decker eat?
4. Who ate more Pizza? Eric Decker or Peyton Manning?
5. Who ate the most Pizza?
6. How many slices of pizza were left-over?

** Extra Credit. Reduce your fraction answers to simplest form. **

Step 3: Writing about Math

Write a short story explaining what the players did with the rest of the pizza. Use math and fractions to describe your story and explain what happened.  You must use at least two sentences.


Math Literacy Cheat Sheet 

Use this for Special Ed students or anyone who needs a kick-start

  • Pepperoni: 16 Slices
  • Sausage: 8 Slices
  • Hamburger: 12 Slices
  • Eric Decker: 4 Pepperoni Slices
  • Peyton Manning: 3 Sausage Slices
  • Wes Welker: 4 Hamburger Slices
  • Julius Thomas: 6 Pepperoni Slices
  • Montee Ball: 2 Sausage Slices
  • Jacob Tamme: 5 Hamburger Slices

Answers to Math Literacy Questions

  1. 36: 16 Pepperoni + 8 Sausage + 12 Hamburger
  2. 6/10 or  **3/5**
  3. 4/16 or **1/4**
  4. Peyton Manning: 3/8 > 1/4
  5. Jacob Tamme (5/12)
  6. 12: 36 – 24 (4 + 3 + 4 + 6 + 2 + 5)

Math Literacy Written Paragraph

Teacher’s Example:

Of the 12 slices of leftover pizza, 6 were pepperoni, 3 sausage and 3 hamburger. The Broncos still had 6/16 (or 3/8ths) of the Pepperoni Pizza, 3/8 of the sausage and 3/12 of the hamburger pizza left over. They had as much Pepperoni Pizza as Sausage since 6/16 is equal to 3/8ths. Only ¼ of the hamburger pizza was left since 3/12 is equal to 1/4th. They decided to save the Pepperoni and Sausage pizza for themselves for the plane trip back home. They gave the remaining 1/4th of the hamburger pizza to a crying, Denver Bronco’s fan.


Regis University Lesson Plan

Name: Rob Delisa

Title: Lesson 0 Math Literacy with Fractions
Content Area: Math Literacy Grade: 4 Duration: 45 Minutes
Standards and Benchmarks: Standard 1: Number Sense, Properties and OperationsGLE 2: Different models and representations can be used to compare fractional parts

  1. Use ideas of fraction equivalence and ordering to: (CCSS: 4.NF)
    1. Use the principle of fraction equivalence to recognize and generate equivalent fractions. (CCSS: 4.NF.1)
    2. Compare two fractions with different numerators and different denominators,5 and justify the conclusions.6 (CCSS: 4.NF.2)
  2. Build fractions from unit fractions by applying understandings of operations on whole numbers. (CCSS: 4.NF)

iii. Solve Word Problems involving fractions of whole numbers.

Standard 2: Reading for all Purposes

a. Use Key Ideas and Details to:

  1. Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. (CCSS: RL.4.1)

Standard 3: Writing and Composition

b. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using    effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.

ii. choose planning strategies to support text structure and intended outcome

vi. Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events.


Objectives: Using reading comprehension skills and knowledge of fraction size and equivalence, students can solve problems. Students will be able to write a short paragraph using knowledge of fraction sizes and equivalence.
Resources and Materials: Sadlier-Oxford Math Book, Chapter 8, Lesson 1-12Fraction Walls (For kids who require it)Number Bond (For kids who require it)
Differentiation: Students who are slow with their math facts can use their fraction equivalence charts or number bonds to help them compare sizes. During the assignment, students are allowed to raise their hand for answers to math facts questions as well as clarification on equivalence and comparison of fractions.
Preparing Students for the Lesson:

  • Transitions
  • Expected Behaviors


Students will have completed a short daily math lesson as well as a few warm-up, story problems involving fraction logic.  They are expected to be very quiet as I bring the lesson up on the projector screen and explain their assignment.
Teaching the Lesson (Lesson Sequence/Activities):

  • Motivation/

Anticipatory Set


  • Pre-Assessment/





  • Teacher Input, Modeling, & Checking for    Understanding


  • Guided Practice


  • Independent Practice


  • Closure



We will begin the lesson by doing a couple of practice word problems involving fractions. We will work on the even problems from page 290-291. Students have already had some practice earlier in the week on the odd-number problems. I will bring the assignment up on the board and we will read together as a class. After reading this again, I will explain it to them and mention that they will get extra credit for being able to reduce the fractions to simplest forms in their answers.  I will explain how they need to read very carefully and perhaps make a chart which summarizes the number of pizzas, players, slices, etc. I will also explain that they are required to write at least two complete sentences in their story.If there is time left and some students are still working on the assignment, I will read the stories of those who have finished which should give them some help finishing their paragraphs. They will be allowed to finish the story at home. Those who are finished can hand their stories in at the end of the lesson.
Assessment: Pre-Assessment and Post Assessment tests have been completed and graded. Comparison of their understanding will take place independently in class as I go around to check their answers as they work.
Notes & Reflections: The big ‘unknown’ for me is how capable these students are of completing the lesson during the 45 minute period. I am also very curious as to how well the students can comprehend and extract the facts from the reading portion of the assignment. Are they creative enough to use the remaining pizza slices in a short paragraph?

Reflection on Reading and Writing in Math

When we began this assignment, many students were in a complete state of gridlock. Even though we read the problem together in class, the entire concept did not make sense to many of them. Fourth graders are used to getting help without making much of an effort on their own . Before we began the lesson, I made it very clear to them that they would have to figure this out on their own. I told them that I could not help them. My supervisor was in the room that day which helped enforce the idea that this was not your ordinary math lesson. They took me very seriously, but it didn’t help with their impulses of dependency.

I learned something very important about the work habits of nine and 10 year old kids. If they are given even the slightest clue that help might come soon, they won’t try on their own. They will literally do nothing for 10 or 15 minutes, waiting for the teacher to come to their rescue. After a period of confusion and frozen silence, it was heartening to see a few students finally begin jotting down their answers to the six questions without me offering a word of guidance. I should not have been surprised that a math literacy assignment would seem so difficult to so many of them. We simply did not spend much time in class reading and writing math problems. In fact, math literacy was a term that escaped me throughout the course of my first two semesters of teaching.  At the beginning of the assignment, I secretly handed cheat sheets out to the special-ed students. After the first 10 minutes, I began walking around the room, handing out more cheat-sheets to those who were completely stuck and not putting their pencils to the paper. At this time, I also began offering clues about re-reading the paragraph and where to look for information. One important habit that students of this age need to learn is how to follow instructions one step at a time. I instructed those who were stuck to take it one question at a time and look for the answer in the paragraph to that question. I spotted a few of them jotting down answers to the question after I told them this. I was surprised how an idea that seemed so instinctive to me was not just as obvious to them. The last and perhaps one of the most important lessons for these kids,  is to learn how to weed-out the unnecessary information from stories involving math.  For example, does it matter that a few of the players went out for Mexican food? Or, that Peyton Manning bought dinner? These types of facts might be second-nature to adults, but children who are still learning to read, are likely going to struggle.

As much as I underestimated the difficulty of the reading part of this assignment, the writing portion made it pale in comparison. You would have thought I asked some of these kids to jump off a cliff. Many of them just put their heads on their desk and gave-up. I did not want them to give up so easily. I told them that if they couldn’t finish this in class it would be due the following day as a homework assignment. That caused a few heads to pop off the desk and brains to come back to life. Once again, I gave them about 10 minutes too simmer and stew before I finally provided some help. I read my own, example paragraph to them. Finally, a few kids not only started writing their own paragraphs, but insisted I read them to the class. This was the most enjoyable part of the entire lesson for the kids and me. While only some of the stories made good mathematical sense, most of them were very creative. In fact, some of them were extremely humorous and rather well-written for the fourth grade level. My supervisor loved the lesson and even wrote her own math literacy story using the facts and figures.

I found it encouraging that kids will eventually overcome the most difficult challenges. Math literacy was unfamiliar territory for them. Most all of them struggled in the beginning. Some of them not only persevered, but thrived by the end of the lesson. From this point forward, reading and writing literacy in math will be a part of every day’s instruction.



Leave a Comment