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Teach and Reinforce Math & Science Vocabulary


K-8 Strategy


Abstract Reasoning Visual Memory Spatial Perception

Teach and Reinforce Math & Science Vocabulary

All students, particularly those who lack confidence in math

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Students will develop their awareness of and confidence in math thinking and application when math vocabulary is directly taught and reinforced within math discussions.
  2. Model and Practice: a) Consistently use math vocabulary in both instruction and discussion. Even students who understand concepts well might forget the math vocabulary or have difficulty providing a definition in words. Consider quizzing students on definitions just as they have vocabulary quizzes in ELA to improve recall of math terms and meanings. b) Be specific with quantities when relevant. When students use ambiguous words (e.g. a lot, big, many) ask them for clarification. While there are times when a specific number is important, using comparison phrases might be just as meaningful (e.g. more than, at least 10 times as big). Explain how that helps you visualize what they are describing, "Now I see that the stadium is larger than this building, not just larger than the classroom. Wow." c) Be specific with directions. When students use imprecise directional language (e.g. over there, far away) ask them for clarification with both words and numbers (e.g. 10 feet to the left, 20 miles north). Older students should be encouraged to use terminology such as parallel, perpendicular, symmetrical, etc. in everyday language.
  3. Ongoing Reinforcement: Ask a follow-up question when students use imprecise language, "I am not sure I can visualize what you are describing. Can you clarify?" and praise students when they use mathematical language without prompting. Reinforcing mathematical language across subjects and at home will help students realize how mathematics is applicable to everyday life and not just for math class.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Students are unlikely to begin speaking mathematics in everyday language without ongoing reinforcement. However, when expectations are set for mathematical language and there is ongoing reinforcement, students will begin to naturally think and use it. When students recognize and articulate mathematical concepts, their understanding and appreciation for mathematics improves.

Best-suited for students with weaker: Long-term Memory, Metacognition, Processing Speed (Source: Digital Promise Learner Variability Project)