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Knowledge of math vocabulary is an essential component of learning
mathematics. In order to communicate math thinking clearly and
coherently students need to learn and use appropriate math vocabulary.
If we want students to use the language of mathematics precisely it is
important that that we model appropriate language in context, both
verbally and visually. Resources such as math word walls and math vocabulary books
can provide scaffolds to bridge the gap between informal math language
and the formal terminology of mathematics as students engage in
mathematical explorations and experiences.
Math word walls have become a common feature in many classrooms.
However, they are often underutilized and serve as little more than a
decorative display. When used well the word wall can be a powerful tool
that promotes independence, develops math vocabulary, and supports
reading and writing in mathematics. Providing students with an individual Math Vocabulary Book ensures that all students have access to the language they need to develop their math writing skills. If your classroom Math word wall cannot be easily seen from all students' tables consider introducing a Math Vocabulary Book as an added support.
Following are some suggestions to
promote effective use of math vocabulary:
Introduce vocabulary to students
Introduce new math vocabulary, as appropriate, during lessons. Post new
vocabulary on the word wall as it is introduced, rather than putting it
all up at the beginning of a unit. As each word is placed on the word
wall, discuss and agree upon a class definition and have a student write
it on a blank card to be displayed alongside the word.
Model how to use the word wall
The more you use the
word wall, the more your students will do the same. Putting the words up at the
beginning of the year and telling students to use it without showing
them how is setting your word wall up for failure. Refer to the word
wall often so that students get in the habit of doing the same and model
how to use it during math writing sessions.
Make the word wall interactive
Make your wall interactive by
posting math vocabulary cards in a pocket chart. This allows students to
go to the wall, remove a word, use it at their desk, and return it. It
also makes is easier for you to dismantle the wall at the end of each
unit which will save you time and make it more likely that you will
update it regularly.
Less is more
Only put up math
vocabulary for the current unit of study, otherwise the wall gets too
crowded and becomes more difficult to use. Take down words once a unit
is completed and retire them to the math center. Students can use cards
from previous units to play the memory game Concentration where they
match the word to the definition, Go Fish (“Do you have “a six sided
figure?” ”Yes, I have a hexagon.”), or any other games that will provide
opportunities to review vocabulary.
Set Expectations
Let students know early in the year that you expect to see vocabulary
from the word wall in students' math writing and that it should be
spelled correctly. To begin with you may have to prompt students to
make use of this resource: "Try to use at least 3 words from the math
word wall in your math writing today".
Make word wall activities a regular part of the classroom routine
When used as a regular, predictable part of classroom routines word
wall activities can play an important role in the development of
students' math vocabulary. Setting aside 10 minutes on a regular,
ongoing basis for word wall activities will make students more aware of
the posted vocabulary and therefore more likely to independently use the
wall as a tool during math writing activities. Possible activities
include:
TicTacToe: Draw a
large grid on chart paper and tape a vocabulary card in each square.
Divide students into teams. Teams take turns choosing a word and
defining it. It the team defines the word correctly, remove the card and
place an X or an O in the square. Leave the card on the board if the
team answers incorrectly. Continue play until a team has three in a row.
The Word Wall Game: The objective of
this game is for students to find words on the word wall using clues
given by the teacher, or another student. Clues may consist of a
definition or description of a word. Once the clue is completed students
may raise their hand to announce that the know where the word is found
on the word wall or write the word on their slate. The teacher calls on a
student to go to the wall, identify the word using a pointer, and say
it. A clue is then given for another word.
Sample clues for a Kindergarten word wall: "I am thinking of a word that..."
Sample clues for a 3rd Grade word wall:"I am thinking of a word that..."
You can use the word wall game when you have a spare few minutes
between lessons, or grab a stack of vocabulary cards as you are lining
up to walk to or from lunch. You will be pleasantly surprised at how
quickly students begin to incorporate these words into their math
writing.
Cloze Activities: Write 23 sentences
and leave blank spaces for students to fill in with appropriate math
vocabulary from the word wall. Alternatively, call out a word from the
math wall and have students write a sentence that expresses a
relationship or connection between the term and another math term,
concept, situation, or realworld application. These are both good warm
up activities for the start of a lesson.
Math Doodles:
Call out a math word and have the students sketch or doodle a picture
of the word for 1520 seconds, until the next word is called. Students
connect each of their doodles with a line, making a simple link. After
you’ve called out 57 words have students label their doodles without
looking at the math word wall. Next, ask students to call out the words
in their chain before checking the spelling of their words against the
math word wall to make sure they are accurate.
Math Vocabulary books should be used alongside the class math word wall to
promote independence and support math writing. Similar to a personal
dictionary, these books allow for differentiation as students can add
the words they need to their own book and have them readily available at
all times. Upper grade students can also add their own definitions of
words.
For 2nd Grade Math Vocabulary Resources see here.
For 3rd Grade Math Vocabulary Resources see here.
For 4th Grade Math Vocabulary Resources see here.
For 5th Grade Math Vocabulary Resources see here.