How to Teach Math Vocabulary

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  • 0:00 Teaching Math Vocabulary
  • 1:32 Word Walls
  • 2:46 Graphic Organizers
  • 3:39 Make it Fun
  • 5:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marquis Grant

Marquis has a Doctor of Education degree.

This lesson will highlight ways in which you can teach math vocabulary to your students. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge about math-related teaching strategies.

Teaching Math Vocabulary

Most people usually associate vocabulary with language arts class. However, every subject area has its own words or phrases that students must learn in order to be successful. Math is no exception. As students move beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, math-related concepts can become a little more challenging.

Teaching math-related language (i.e., vocabulary) is probably the best starting point when teaching concepts and processes students will come across during instruction, activities and assessments. When students have a solid understanding of math-related language, they have the skills needed to be actively involved in the math classroom.

Vocabulary strategies for the math classroom are similar to those used in language-arts instruction. Strategies are methods that you and your students use to support their learning processes. Teachers should look for opportunities to build vocabulary into their mathematics lesson plans. When you teach math vocabulary before plunging into your lesson content, you will give your students an opportunity to learn important words and phrases. For example, it would probably be a good idea to define the term 'inequality' and give students concrete examples of what an inequality is and what an inequality is not. Once you have established that students have a firm understanding of the term, you can move ahead with the related lesson.

Word Walls

One of the best math teaching strategies is teaching math concepts through the use of math word walls. While word walls have been commonly used in reading or language arts classrooms, teachers of other subject areas are also using them to support their students' ability to make connections with new words or phrases, or allow the students to reference words that you have previously covered during instruction. The words used for a word wall are usually related to an activity or lesson that the teacher will be implementing.

Words and phrases placed on the word wall are usually arranged in alphabetical order, displayed in large visible letters on the wall, bulletin board or other display surface in a classroom. For example, you may be starting a lesson on fractions, but want your students to understand the components of a fraction. You may want to cover fraction-related words like denominator, numerator, improper and mixed. You, as the teacher, may write each word on an index card and review them with your students. Afterwards, you would place the word on a wall or bulletin board somewhere in the classroom where students can easily see the words.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers can help children grasp an understanding of math vocabulary terms. You can use graphic organizers to teach students word meanings, terms that are associated with a particular vocabulary word and examples of the word. For example, in your lesson on fractions, you have introduced the word vertex. You can use a graphic organizer, like the Frayer Model, to then explicitly teach the word to your students before placing it on the word wall.

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