Comprehending Technical Math Reading: What Is Technical Material?

Technical reading involves focusing on writing that communicates specific information. This information is in a large variety of formats from directions, memos, reports, letters, proposals, prescriptions, to charts, graphs, and spreadsheets. These formats may be very unfamiliar to the reader who is used to typical fiction and nonfiction patterns and structures. Being able to read technical writing is a literacy that everyone must have. So here, we’ll discuss the topic “Comprehending Technical Math Reading: What Is Technical Material?”

Skills Needed for Technical Reading

  • Following step-by-step directions.
  • Being able to read and comprehend multiple step directions.
  • Being aware of highly technical vocabulary– each technical field has its own jargon.
  • Being able to read succinct writing– technical writing is often written in brief phrases or incomplete sentences.
  • Using reading as a tool to accomplish a task.
  • Reading critically and reasoning.
  • Problem-solving ability.
    • Reading numbers, symbols, graphics.
    • Being aware of one’s prior knowledge and background experience in order to monitor one’s understanding.
  • Recognizing the various formats
    • Step-by-step directions.
    • Text that is answered-orientated (typical questions asked and answers to those questions).
    • Visual representations to clarify and reinforce directions.
  • Being able to interpret abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Adjust speed (rate) of reading to accommodate different formats used in technical writing.

Comprehending Nonfiction: What Is Nonfiction?

Non-fiction is prose literature that deals with real situations, persons, or events. “Nonfiction is prose designed primarily to explain, argue, or describe rather than to entertain; specifically, a type of prose other than fiction.” Harris, T.L., Hodges, R.E. (Eds.). (1995). The Literacy Dictionary: The Vocabulary of Reading and Writing. International Reading Association.)

What Are Some Examples of Nonfiction?

Newspapers Magazines Math Research Materials
Story Problems Want Ads Encyclopedia
Biographies Research Technical Articles
Prescriptions Math Textbooks Journals, Logs
How to books Histories Photographs
Sewing patterns Documents


  • To have fun and to learn
  • To make connections to our lives and learning
  • To understand new concepts
  • To expand vocabulary
  • To acquire information
  • To answer specific questions
  • To satisfy curiosity
  • To more fully understand the world around you


Tells a story Provides information, e.g. Math books  
Vocabulary is more familiar Vocabulary is specialized and technical and not often repeated
Reader needs to identify with characters Reader needs to interact with subject matter
Holds reader’s attention with the plot Holds reader’s attention by the structure and organization of the text
Usually bases themes on reader’s experiences Has unfamiliar abstract concepts that are concisely presented
Has an elaborate writing style Has a very concise writing (content-laden)
Offers entertainment Presents material to expand knowledge and solve problems
Allows fairly rapid reading Requires slower, more flexible rate, constant need to adjust rate
Conveys meaning through words Often uses graphic aids,(graphs, charts, tables, maps)
Has varying readability level and more personal Has high readability level often written in an impersonal style


  • Identifying main ideas and supporting details.
  • Locating facts or specific details.
  • Understanding special concepts and vocabulary.
  • Adjusting reading rate to purpose, difficulty, and type of content.
  • Organizing reading by text structure: sequence, cause/effect, problem/solution, fact/opinion, and compare/contrast.
  • Reading and interpreting graphic aids.
  • Comprehending at all levels from literal to critical.

Ways to Promote Nonfiction Reading

  • Immerse students in nonfiction of every type and form. Create a home and classroom where students are surrounded by quality nonfiction.
  • Demonstrate/model your own use of nonfiction. Model how to comprehend nonfiction making use of all the organizational features of nonfiction.
  • Read nonfiction as a read aloud to your child and to the classroom.
  • Share your own process of inquiry and engage students in research/inquiry projects.
  • Do nonfiction book talks–introduce students to latest and best nonfiction.
  • Do nonfiction author’s studies–help students become as aware of excellent nonfiction authors as they are of fiction authors.
  • Form a nonfiction book club or informational study group around a common interest or question.
  • Read the newspaper daily in the classroom and at home.
  • Read magazine articles. Have students share articles from their favorite magazines.