Use of Correct Math Terminology is Critical to Teaching Math Vocabulary

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.

The best way to learn a language - any language- is to be fully immersed in it. And so it should be in the math classroom because math is a language. Every math classroom should be rich with language, and the use of the correct terms must not just be encouraged. It must be expected.

In order for children to learn to speak math, teachers must model the language regularly and correctly.

Math As a Second Language - MSOL

Those wishing to become really fluent in a foreign language often spend time in a country where the language is spoken, completely immersing themselves in the culture and the language. My French teacher in college never spoke a word of English in the classroom. Her technique for teaching the language was total immersion, too, and it worked.

This, then, is my goal as a math teacher. I want to create a math culture in which my students are completely immersed in the language of math. That means I must

  1. Use the correct math terminology myself, daily and with fluency,
  2. Insist that my students use the correct math terms, and
  3. Provide opportunities daily for students to "speak math."


Opportunities for Language


Cooperative Learning is absolutely essential in providing opportunities for children to speak math. When children work together, they should be talking about what they are learning, and to make sure this is happening, the teacher assumes the role of facilitator, sometimes moving from group to group, sometimes meeting with small groups of children, but always interacting with learners.

Math Word Walls are tremendous in getting the correct language to kids and keeping the words before them. It is invaluable in creating a culture of math in the classroom. They are perfect for ongoing review and should be constantly referenced throughout the day.


Return to the Language of Math From Math Terminology

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No Bad Questions

Math classrooms should be free of the fear of asking a "bad" question. How is it possible for a question to be bad, anyway? I have told my students for 29 years that "there are no bad questions in math," and I stand by it even today because asking questions is how we ALL learn!

Our job is not just to answer their questions, but to answer their questions until they understand the answer.

But, wait - there's more.

Our questions are just as powerful, especially if we want our students to use the language of math. (And we do want that, don't we?)

Careful questioning can encourage children to "talk math" when we move beyond "What is the answer?" and gravitate toward "Tell me how you got your answer."



Sometimes, the answer is not the most important thing in math - it's how you arrived at the answer that is most important!