One of the best math teaching strategies is teaching the language of math

One of the best math teaching strategies is teaching math concepts through the use of math word walls. It really is all about the words, I have discovered, and teaching the language of math is critical to teaching math concepts and procedures.

I honestly don't think I could ever teach math without a word wall ! We have time every day for reviewing the words, and it is the most helpful strategy I know for teaching vitally important math terminology.

Wall words should also be used to support reading since reading is the most important skill children learn in school.

Favorite Math Word Wall Activities

Pictionary - Students draw a representation of one of the words for the others to guess.

Laser Show - This is a big hit with my sixth graders. I give the definition of a word, ask who sees it, and give one of our little mouse laser pointers to a student to "shine" the word for the rest of us.

I AM - Students take turns saying, "I AM......" then fill in the blank using the definition for one of the words. (Ex. "I AM the answer in multiplication.") The person who identifies the correct word is the next one to take a turn.

Word Searches - These are quick and easy to create online using the words currently on your wall, and kids love doing them.

Memory Game - My sixth grade math students love using the Star Wars saber for this game, and it gives them experience reading and becoming familiar with key math vocabulary.

Another way for improving memory is by Teaching Kids Math Through Sight and Sound

Please share your favorite math word wall game at the bottom of the page!

In over 20 years of teaching math, two areas to which I have consistently given attention are context and memory.

Vehicles for Memory

Providing ways for children to remember is a solid way to help them recall math concepts long after they have been tested on the material. It is a basic math teaching strategy that I have used with success for many years. The two main vehicles for memory that I have used over the years are art and storytelling.


On the Art and Learning page of this website are some beautiful pictures of "Angle Animals," drawn by an extremely talented former student, Allison Lolley. I always loved this assignment because I felt it "saved" the concepts of acute and obtuse angles in the "hard drive" of my students' brains.

Concepts in geometry seem to lend themselves well to the use of art, and I often ask students to "hide" specified geometric shapes in pictures. This works equally well for basic shapes (circle, square, rectangle) and for more advanced figures such as the different types of triangles (equilateral, isosceles, right, acute, obtuse.)

These assignments give my students experiences with math vocabulary on which all study of mathematics is based. 

Hidden shapes by Allison Lolley

For more information on using art in math please see Teaching Math with Art.


The brain loves stories, says Dr. Fritz Mengert, neuro cognitive scientist and researcher, and I have found that students remember math procedures much longer when there is a story to accompany them. It is a particularly good way to help kids remember integer rules.

One of my favorites is for an improper fraction. Its "head" is too big (poor thing) and it must be "rushed to the hospital" where students must "operate" by dividing the bottom number into the top number to form a mixed numeral.

This story gives an excellent opportunity for incorporating art and we have a lot of fun drawing ambulances for transporting the afflicted fractions. It's one of the most fun strategies for teaching math!

More math teaching strategies @ TSF

Math Terminology
Use of correct math terminology is critical to teaching math vocabulary. Placing math terms on a math word wall and using them daily makes ongoing review easy and fun.

Why Have a Math Word Wall?
More than any other subject, math builds on what is already known. The brain operates that way, too - attaching new information to the old. So how can a math word wall help?

Integer Rules and How to Teach Them
Integer rules don't have to be confusing. When kids need help with integers, and you need help teaching integers, these techniques may be just what you need.

Teaching Kids Math Through Sight and Sound
Teaching kids math through sight and sound is particularly useful in teaching math vocabulary. When used along with a math word wall, involving the senses can improve memory and recall.

Teaching Math With Art
Teaching math with art is an excellent strategy. The connection between the two is often overlooked in articles about teaching math, but the truth is that using art in math significantly improves retention of key concepts and vocabulary

Math Centers
Math centers are one of the best math teaching strategies around. With interesting math center activities, learning and teaching elementary and middle school math is fun!

Math Center Activities
Interesting math center activities keep students engaged and learning. Elementary and middle school math centers may include math labs in addition to games and other fun learning activities.

Go to Teaching Math with Art from Math Teaching Strategies
Go to Art and Learning from Math Teaching Strategies

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Snowball Fight!  
On a scrap sheet of paper, each student writes down a clue/definition/example for a word on the word wall. The students then ball up their clues and throw …

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Math Gold:Fun With Words

While we all work to help our students really understand math concepts, there are a lot of rules which can be easily confused. So it helps to have little "tricks" to help them remember.

Here are some gold nuggets for improving memory and recall of key vocabulary, all kid-tested and approved by my students!

ProDUCt means multiply!

Practicing drawing our little friend makes us "happy, happy, happy" because we can remember that product means "multiply!"

Complementary and Supplementary Angles

The "C" in "Complementary" can be made into a "9" for 90 degrees; the "S" in "Supplementary" can be made into an "8" for 180 degrees.

Parallel and Perpendicular

The word "parallel" actually has a picture of parallel lines in the word (two letter "l's");the PEN in perpendicular can remind students of a pen positioned on paper


There's no need to wonder what percent is! It means "out of 100" and the symbol for percent is actually a "1" with two little zeros!! (%)

Graphing Inequalities

When graphing "greater/less than or equal to" it helps to think of the "equal to" part as a little pencil which can be used to "color in" the point on the number line.


No need for your students to wonder about what to do for the difference, either! There is a subtraction symbol crossing the two "f's!"

Absolute Value

Of course I want my students to understand that absolute value is distance from zero. But since the symbol looks like two blades in a razor, we use this analogy to help us remember that.

Diameter and Radius

My kids were always getting these two terms confused - until I told them that the "Dr." could fix their problem with remembering -- when written side by side, "d" (diameter) is twice as tall (long) as "r" (radius!)

Coordinate System

To help my students remember which is the x-axis and which is the y-axis, I write the letter "y" with a long "tail" which goes "up and down" - like the y-axis.

Click on graphic above for more ideas on teaching the coordinate system!

Adding/subtracting Decimals

Do your kids forget when to line up their decimals? Mine did - until I told them to "build" a snowman with the "snowballs" that form the word "add," then look at the "snowman buttons." It seems to really help them remember to have this visual.

They do art projects to reinforce it, and if they draw a little snowman beside those problems on tests, they get bonus points!