Why Have a Math Word Wall?

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?

A Math Word Wall Can Be Used To.......

Build Fluency

Wait a minute - isn't "fluency" a reading term? Not if you are approaching math as a language. One look at a standardized math test should convince you that if kids don't know the language, they are pretty much paralyzed. They simply have to know the words.

Many sight word games can be used with these walls, too. These games and activities don't have to take up much class time, either - 5 to 7 minutes - but when used daily they are a powerful tool for improving reading fluency in math.

Students love Word Adoptions, Scavenger Hunts, and creating Word Wall Families and Word Wall Super Heroes using the math vocabulary on a math word wall. They are perfect activities for students to complete as they finish regularly scheduled tests.

Review Concepts

Kids need to know the words, but they also need to know what they mean as well as understand the concepts they represent. So learning and remembering math terminology is essential for success.

Collections of words on classroom walls are visible and available at all times. Once you begin pointing out the words as they come up in class discussions - better yet, once you have students point them out - it will become so much a part of your routine that you will wonder how you ever taught without them!

Our favorite games for reviewing concepts using the words don't take up much class time, either. And as math teachers, we know every minute counts! (Pun intended!!)

Contribute to a Brain-Friendly Learning Environment

Word walls are invaluable in creating a learning environment that is pleasing to the brain. Using wall space for words, written on white index cards and placed parallel to the floor, may replace wall decorations that are distractions to the brain - especially the brains of boys.

Provide Context

All word walls need to be built together with children over time and used to support reading. Commercially packaged products are just not the same! As they grow and are used daily in a variety of games and activities, they begin to provide a context for the learning taking place in the classroom. When referenced regularly in class, students perceive that there is a reason they are there. They are being used.

Return to Language of Math from Math Word Wall

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Give It a Try!

Word walls truly have revolutionized my teaching. My students learn, remember, and understand more math than they ever did before I began using them. It is so much a part of our class now that I don't know how I did without them, and my kids love reviewing, reading, and playing games with the words.

Please don't let thoughts like these hold you back from trying it as a technique in your classroom:

"I don't have enough wall space to put up words."

Take decorations and anything you don't actually use off the walls and put up words! Decorations are distracting to the brain anyway, so it's a win-win situation!

And words don't absolutely have to be on the wall. They just need to be visible and accessible. I have dry erase boards all the way around my room so one of our math word walls is above them.

We use laser pointers to read the words (along with a super-cool Star Wars light saber!), and I have a little step ladder for putting up more.

There are words on cabinet doors, too, and I have in the past placed words on doors and windows

"I don't know where to get the words."

Use the key words or terms for the math topic you are currently teaching. I write them on 4 x 6 index cards ahead of time when I do my lesson plans each week. Then when I introduce them during each lesson, I put those terms on the wall that afternoon.