Building Academic Math Vocabulary

Academic vocabulary in mathematics is often one of the largest barriers for students.  They understand the mathematics when asked to perform it in a specific way, but when asked using vocabulary they are not comfortable with, they may respond like they have never seen the content before!  Students must also be able to “attend to precision” (Math Practice 6) and understand that many terms in mathematics have similarities but yet the differences between the terms makes them not interchangeable.  For example, a third grader who does not know the difference between an expression and an equation may lose half-credit on a Smarter Balanced item if they type in an equation when asked for an expression.

In the Item Specifications for Smarter Balanced, the “construct relevant” vocabulary is listed for each Claim 1 (Concepts and Procedures) target.  We at SMc Curriculum have taken these vocabulary words and formatted them on individual cards to be used in the classroom to introduce or reinforce the vocabulary.

One way to use the vocabulary cards would be through a small group activity called Math Password.  In this activity, students (3-4 per group) are given a set of the vocabulary cards which they place upside-down in the center of their group.  One player draws a card and, without looking, holds it to his or her forehead for others to see.  The others in their group give him/her mathematical  clues on what their word until the person whose turn it is guesses the word or gives up.  Words that the clue-givers don’t know can be put into a separate pile.  At the end of the activity, each group is responsible for looking up the words they did not know from this pile and sharing one learning with the class.

You can find your grade-level vocabulary cards by selecting your grade-level in the Smarter Balanced section of this website and then clicking on the top button (purple) that reads “Concepts and Procedures (Claim 1) Fact Sheets and Vocabulary”.  The vocabulary cards will be the top link on this next page.  A sample of these cards (Grade 7) can be viewed here.

2 replies
  1. My Countryside
    My Countryside says:

    I do agree with all of the ideas you’ve introduced on your post.
    They are very convincing and will certainly work.
    Still, the posts are very brief for novices. Could you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *