Learning the Language of Math
Help students review critical math vocabulary by using discussion, modeling, think-aloud problem-solving, and meaningful connections.
Mapping Math Words
Use mapping to help students develop understanding of math words with multiple meanings. Ask students to brainstorm all the definitions they know for words such as volume, degree, scale, point, expressions, mean, or base. Write the word at the center of the board. Then draw spokes from the word and write definitions at the other ends. Discuss each meaning and identify the one that applies to your lesson.
Write topic-related words on a set of index cards. For instance, to reinforce division vocabulary, write divisor, dividend, quotient, and remainder on separate cards. For each term, write a definition on another card to create a matching pair. Make additional pairs using the same words and equations that show arrows pointing to the number it represents (for example, for quotient, write a division equation and draw an arrow pointing to the answer). Invite students to play Concentration with the cards.
Challenge students to create acrostics to demonstrate their understanding of topic-related words. Can they make an acrostic for triangle, for example, using related words such as isosceles, acute, and equilateral? If students are stumped, encourage them to use their math textbooks as a reference for finding appropriate phrases. Have students work in pairs to promote discussion. When finished, have them share their acrostics with the class.
Mix-n-Match Word Parts
Help students identify Latin or Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes in words to develop a better understanding of their meanings. For instance, in measurement, meter is a frequently used root and gon is used in the names of many shapes. Work with students to create word webs to brainstorm as many topic-related words as possible for a given root. As they name words, encourage students to give examples to demonstrate their understanding of the words.
Let students create posters to demonstrate their understanding of math vocabulary and concepts. For example, they might feature words related to line concepts, such as line segment, ray, parallel lines, perpendicular lines, intersecting lines, and so on. Encourage students to incorporate illustrations and definitions that help explain each concept and offer connections to real-life applications. When finished, invite students to take turns assuming the role of a professor. Have them use their poster—and the appropriate vocabulary—to “teach” small groups or the class about the targeted concepts. —Mackie Rhodes