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News literacy lesson plans available for math teachers

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The American Society of News Editors and the Journalism Education Association in partnership with the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute offer free news literacy lessons for English/language arts, science, math and social studies teachers to use in secondary-school classrooms. The lessons are available at WhyNewsMatters.org, SchoolJournalism.org and jea.org. Funding for the project was provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

The News Literacy Corner will highlight each of these subject areas. This week, math is covered.

The math lessons were developed by three educators to help middle school and high school teachers incorporate news literacy within the math classroom. These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, and a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 License allows teachers to adapt the lessons for educational purposes.

“I think that news literacy is crucial in math classrooms because news consumers are inundated with data of some form in every aspect of news presentation, whether it be business/financial, sports, entertainment, medical, crime, political and a host of other news subjects,” said Joe Fraioli, a math teacher who helped develop the lessons. “It is the responsibility of the news organization to present fair and balanced reporting, free from bias, and on the flip side, it is our responsibility as news consumers to analyze the news that is presented to us and make conclusions based on what we have read or heard. By understanding the mathematics used in news reports, we are better equipped to make stronger and more educated conclusions.”

There are nine lessons, and each focuses on a different aspect of news literacy. They are also divided into different grade levels. Materials for each lesson are provided.

The seventh- and eighth-grade lessons, developed by English teacher Shaun Errichiello, are titled “Buffalo Blizzard,” “All the Ants” and “Counting the Hungry.”

Merging news literacy and math gives students an opportunity to think about the world beyond their immediate experiences, Errichiello said.

“Mathematics is more than a worksheet,” Errichiello said. “It is the language of the universe and certainly gives us the opportunity to think critically about our past, present and future.”

The ninth- and 10th-grade lessons, developed by math teacher Joe Fraioli, are titled  “Probability in the News Standard Deviation,” “What Luck!” and “‘Calculating’ the News Using Regression Line Model to Make Predictions.”

“I hope that students see how relatively straightforward it can be to calculate many of the numbers we see in the news, including percentages, probability, and various statistics,” Fraioli said. “I also hope that when students see mathematics used in the context of news coverage, they can immediately understand the meaning behind the numbers presented.”

The 11th- and 12th-grade lessons, developed by math teacher Meredith Klein, are titled “College Loans, Debt, and Compound Interest”; “Credit Cards, Interest, and Savings”; and “Financial Literacy: Where can we find reliable information?”

“I hope that students become aware of the importance of being financially literate,” Klein said. “I think that they do know already that understanding finance is important, but maybe this unit will help them to gain the tools to access information that is out there about how our economy works, so that they can stay educated and up-to-date as things shift financially and economically.”

Click here to download the lessons.

To learn more about teaching news literacy and receive information about available resources, join the News and Information Professional Learning Community.

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