As a member of the numeracy committee for my school division, I get the chance to listen and learn from many gifted math teachers in our division. I love the collaborative nature of the meetings, designed to move us in the direction of better instruction for our students. This week one of the important topics of discussion stemmed around our desire for continuity in the teaching of math vocabulary.
So what’s the deal? Would teaching common terms to our students really make a big difference? Should we be taking our math time to address vocabulary? Yes! The research is clear. Math vocabulary instruction is effective and vital to support deeper math understanding.
- Math vocabulary terms should be taught in the context of learning math concepts.
- Using a variety of different models/graphic organizers for students to express their understanding, is effective. (ie. The Freyer model, tables, Four Square model, Feature Analysis tables, etc.)
- Providing examples of what a term is, and what it is not, leads to deeper understanding.
- Associating new vocabulary terms with words or concepts that a student already knows helps them to retain the new word with a meaningful context.
- Having students express their understanding of terms with pictures, numbers and/or words, leads to deeper conceptualization.
Capraro, Robert M., Mary Margaret Capraro, and William H. Rupley. 2010. “Semantics and Syntax: A Theoretical Model for How Students May Build Mathematical Misunderstandings.” Journal of Mathematics Education 3 (2): 58–66. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02702710600642467
Fisher, Douglas, and Nancy Frey. 2008. Word Wise and Content Rich, Grades 7–12: Five Essential Steps to Teaching Academic Vocabulary. Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann.
Dunsten, Pamela J. and Tyminski, Andrew M., “What’s the Big Deal about Vocabulary?” Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. Vol.19, No. 1, August 2013, The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc. .www.nctm.org.