It is critical for students to understand and use math terminology in daily math lessons. Math has a language of its own. Sometimes it uses symbols and sometimes the written word, but there is no denying that Math is a language.
Math terminology plays a critical part in understanding math concepts.
Do you have students in your classroom who do not respond to questions in mathematics lessons? Perhaps you can think of students who demonstrate knowledge and understanding of math concepts in class, but do not perform well on math tests? Or maybe, you have a student who performs exceptionally in non-verbal reasoning tests but does not show the same ability when solving word problems?
There are three main ways in which your students’ failure to understand math terminology may show itself:
- not responding to questions and seeming disengaged
- unable to complete tasks that are heavy on written instruction
- unable to apply knowledge an understanding in mathematics tests.
Update Your Classroom Display
Do you have a math vocabulary display in your classroom that is looking and feeling a little bit sad? Why not freshen up your math vocabulary classroom display with our new Mathematics Vocabulary Posters.
Why is it Important to Teach and Learn Math Terminology?
We could think of Math as a fast-paced sport. Stay with me.
Most sports include some unusual lingo – let’s use basketball as an example. The fast-paced nature of basketball can make learning the language of hoops even more of a challenge. If you’ve ever been assigned to coach basketball as an extracurricular sport, you’ll know that there’s little point in asking your students to fast break the ball down the court, post up, layup, or ally-oop unless there is a clear understanding of what these technical terms mean.
With this analogy in mind, imagine being a student lost in a fast-paced math lesson, confused by the language and the terminology. Even with the best intentions, your confused student is soon going to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and defeated.
Don’t forget that your students need regular planned opportunities to read, unpack, and use math terminology.
I used our Math – Classroom Theme Pack editable word wall cards to create this eye-catching classroom display. Remember to refer to your display daily, discuss the vocabulary, and make it part of your daily routine to pick a word and explore it!
Support Your Students with Vocabulary
I used our Math – Classroom Theme Pack editable name tags to create these effective math vocabulary binder rings to help students make links between math terminology related to the four operations. I love the idea of making a set of four binder rings for each table. But if you’re strapped for time, make one ring for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and hang them up as part of your math display for students to use and return.
Punch-Out Math Terminology
Are you looking for a way to support both kinesthetic and visual learners?
Take away the fear of mathematical terminology by using fun hand gestures to represent the four operations. Using hand gestures is a great way to reinforce teaching and learning and to help make student thinking more visible. This kind of teaching and learning technique makes me smile on the inside.
Take the time to watch this wonderful Teaching Channel video. It provides a sneak peek into a classroom in the United Kingdom, tackling word problems and math terminology in a genius way!
One of the hardest things about solving word problems is unpacking the words and identifying the math operation(s) needed to find the solution. Students need practice at both reading and interpreting word problems and identifying the operation required. Worry about the actual answer later on!
How to use this technique:
- Introduce a hand gesture and sound effect for each of the four mathematical operations. Choose easy to remember actions and short, sharp sound effects.
- Familiarize your students with these gestures by using them during daily math lessons. Whenever you use the words ‘addition’, ‘subtraction’, ‘multiplication’ or ‘division’, encourage your students to make the hand gesture and sound effect.
- Provide your class with a selection of word problem task cards that involve the four operations.
- Ask your students to work with a partner to take it in turns to read the word problem and identify the math operation needed to solve the problem.
- Encourage your students to make the gesture and sound effect as soon as they identify the operation needed to solve each word problem. Make it fast-paced and fun!
Don’t forget that your students need regular planned opportunities for development in this important area of Mathematics.
Sort Math Terminology Building Brick
For middle years, why not set up a math terminology sorting task? I wrote math vocabulary on building blocks but you could use anything that you can get your hands on. From bottle tops to craft sticks, your students will develop their understanding of math terminology and how math vocabulary often carries the same meaning by engaging in a kinesthetic activity.
Create a Math Terminology Word Search
Why not give your students a brain break from numbers? You can customize our own math terminology word search by using our Create Your Own Word Search Widget.
How to do it:
- Select Widgets from the home menu.
- Find and select Create Your Own Word Search
- Add a title.
- Enter a list of words that you would like to appear in your word search.
- Select a board size and font.
- Choose ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to including diagonals.
If you are teaching and learning about vocabulary related to measurement, it’s your lucky day! There’s a list of 45 measurement words, ready to go! Just select the appropriate word list from the drop-down menu (Custom List) and you are good to go.
Here’s some more teaching ideas as a parting gift.
Go forth and multiply the opportunities to learn and teach math terminology in your classroom.
You’ve got this!