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Teaching Math Vocabulary

In a child’s everyday life, the meanings of words used in their general usage are often very different from their mathematical meanings such as similar, even, odd, multiply, factor, prime, and power. Talk to your students about the difference in meanings when common words have special mathematical meanings. For example:

    Joseph was scared, even his knees were shaking.
    10 is an even number.
    Our football team will face their opponent on Saturday.
    How many faces are on a polygon?

The language of mathematics

As you plan your next unit of math instruction, determine the relevant vocabulary you want to call out for your students. Create a “Math Words” class chart and add new words as they arise during instruction. Always explain the vocabulary by connecting its meaning to the learning experience.

What words your students should know

Check your district curriculum documents for terminology that your students are responsible for knowing. Once you’ve identified those words, you and your students can add these terms to your Math Words chart as students learn them in meaningful problem-solving contexts. For a list of examples, read our November Educator Newsletter.

And remember – reinforcement is key! Continue to use the words repeatedly and encourage your students to use the vocabulary in discussions and in their writings. What methods do you use in your classroom or home to teach math vocabulary? Share your ideas with us – leave us a comment below!

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