Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 76, Issue 1, pp 49–63 | Cite as

Understanding mathematics textbooks through reader-oriented theory



Textbooks have the potential to be powerful tools to help students develop an understanding of mathematics. However, many students are unable to use their textbooks effectively as learning tools. This paper presents a framework that can be used to analyze factors that impact the ways students read textbooks. It adapts ideas from reader-oriented theory and applies them to the domain of mathematics textbooks. In reader-oriented theory, the reader is viewed as actively constructing meaning from a text through the reading process; this endeavor is shaped and constrained by the intentions of the author, the beliefs of the reader, and the qualities the text requires the reader to possess. This paper also discusses how reading mathematics textbooks is further constrained by the authority and closed structure of these textbooks. After describing the framework, the paper discusses recommendations for future avenues of research and pedagogy, highlighting the importance of teachers' roles in mediating their students' use of textbooks.


Mathematics education Content area reading Reader-oriented theory Textbooks 



The authors wish to thank Kien Lim, the anonymous reviewers, and the editor for their comments on previous versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ithaca CollegeIthacaUSA

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