University of Oregon

How does text complexity influence math comprehension and learning outcomes?


Readability, as an estimate of how easily a reader will be able to successfully read and learn from a text, has generally focused on the direct characteristics of the text alone. In the past, this approach has been reasonable since almost all of the materials in question have been just simple text. That is, words collected into sentences, sentences collected into paragraphs, and paragraphs stacked up into sections and chapters.

Today's textbooks no longer follow this simple structure. Textbook pages now are almost always complicated amalgamations of text, lists, charts, tables, pullouts, symbols, and graphics. "Text" today is complex.

We have begun to collect books, articles, papers and websites about Text Complexity. Our initial gleanings are listed below. We invite you to leave comments and to send us additional items for this bibliography.

Initial References:

Benjamin, R. G., & Schwanenflugel, P. J. (2010). Text complexity and oral reading prosody in young readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 45(4), 388–404.

Burdick, H. (n.d.). Comparisons of Various Text Complexity Equations.

Castello, E. (2008). Text complexity and reading comprehension tests. Bern, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

English and communication benchmarks, grades 4 – 12: Understanding text complexity. (2008). Achieve, Inc. Retrieved from

Gewertz, C. (2011). Teachers tackle text complexity. Education Week, 30(24), 13.

Hess, K., & Biggam, S. (2004). A discussion of “increasing text complexity.” Vermont State Board of Education, R45–R48.

Hiebert, E. H. (2011). Beyond Single Readability Measures: Using Multiple Sources of Information in Establishing Text Complexity. Journal of Education, 191(2), 33–42.

Liben, D. (n.d.). Aspects of text complexity project: Why complex text matters. Retrieved from

Sheehan, K. M., Kostin, I., Futagi, Y., & Flor, M. (2010). Generating automated text complexity classifications that are aligned with targeted text complexity standards (ETS Report No. RR-10-28). Educational Testing Services.

Stenner, A. Jackson, Burdick, D. S., Burdick, H., Swartz, C. W., & Hanlon, S. T. (2011). Variability in Estimates of Text Complexity for Different Sample Sizes from Professionally Authored Text.

Stenner, A. Jackson, Swartz, C. W., Burdick, H., Burdick, D. S., & Hanlon, S. T. (2011). Relationship Between Theoretical and Empirical Estimates of Text Complexity for Two Different Reading Item Types.

Stenner, A.J., Swartz, C. W., Hanlon, S. T., Burdick, D. S., & Burdick, H. (n.d.). The relationship between theoretical text complexity and empirical text complexity.

Wixson, K. (2011, March 17). ELA-CCSS: Text complexity in upper elementary grades. Presented at the 2011 Michigan Reading Association.