Reading mathematics for understanding-From novice to expert

Mary D. Shepherd, Carla van de Sande

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


As students progress through the college mathematics curriculum, enter graduate school and eventually become practicing mathematicians, reading mathematics textbooks and journal articles appears to become easier and leads to increased proficiency and understanding. This study was designed to begin to understand how mathematically more advanced readers read for understanding in mathematical exposition as it appears in textbooks compared to first-year undergraduate students. Three faculty members and three graduate students participated in this study and read from a first-year graduate textbook in an area of mathematics unfamiliar to each of them. The observed reading strategies of these more mathematically advanced readers are compared to observed reading strategies of first-year undergraduate students from an earlier study. The reading methods of the faculty level mathematicians were all quite similar and were markedly different from those that have been identified for undergraduate students, as well as from those used by the graduate students in this study. A Mathematics Reading Framework is proposed based on this study and previous research documenting the strategies that first-year undergraduate students use for reading exposition in their mathematics textbooks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-86
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Mathematical Behavior
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Expert readers
  • Reading mathematics textbooks
  • Tertiary mathematics
  • Tertiary reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Applied Psychology
  • Applied Mathematics


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