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Easy Ways to Use Math Vocabulary In Your Lessons

For students, mastering vocabulary is an essential part of understanding math concepts. Today, we’re going to talk about various ways you can use math vocabulary during your lessons.

Learn easy ways you can use math vocabulary during your lessons to help your students grow

Accessing Prior Knowledge

You can give your students vocabulary and definition cards and have them try to match them. This can give you an idea of what they already know before you begin your unit.

Group Discussions

When you teach Guided Math at your teacher table, you can encourage students to use the correct vocabulary terms as you have your discussions. (Ex: Students should say ‘product’ not ‘answer’ when referring to multiplication equations.)

I like to have the vocabulary cards and definition cards on the table so I can pass them around to students and assign terms to use in our discussion.

You might also choose to use math vocabulary wheels as a reference tool during your math workshop lessons.

Oral Response to Problems

When you ask students a question, tell them what term to use in their response. Here’s an example:

Teacher writes ?+615=815 on the board. Student raises their hand to answer. Teacher says, “Please use the vocabulary term addend in your answer.”

Written Response to Problems

When students are doing math problems with pencils and paper, you can have them write sentences for response to some problems. (I don’t recommend doing this for an entire worksheet. Rather, choose one or two problems.) Here’s an example:

Worksheet problem: Solve for the product: 20×6=? Challenge students to write a response using the terms product and multiple.

Student writes, “The product of 20×6 is 120. I know this because 20 is a multiple of ten, so I can simply multiply 2×6 to get 12, and then add a zero to the end.”

Taking Notes/Interactive Notebooks

Math Vocabulary Trifold for Math Interactive Notebook
Pictured: Vocabulary Trifold from 5th Grade Guided Math

An additional way to incorporate math vocabulary into your lessons is by getting students to take notes. You can have students copy notes you write on the board and label different vocabulary terms.

In the above photo, a vocabulary trifold is used as part of an interactive notebook. Students write the definition of the term under the flap, and they also write or draw an example. This gives students a tool to look back on if they forget the meaning of a term.

Definition Matching

Math vocabulary and definition cards displayed in a pocket chart
Pictured: Vocabulary and Definition Cards from 3rd Grade Guided Math

Once you have taught vocabulary and definitions, you can pass out cards and have students match the term to the definition. You can also have them draw or write examples of the term.

Test Prep Questions

Do you do test prep with your students? Maybe you give them sample test problems throughout the year, or perhaps you do an entire practice test before your end-of-year final test. No matter how you choose to incorporate test prep, here’s an idea you can use:

When doing test prep questions, you can give your students highlighters and have them highlight vocabulary terms. Then, encourage them to use their interactive notebooks to look up the definitions of any terms they don’t remember. Have class discussions about the problems. (Ex: This problem is asking us to round to the nearest ten. What is the definition of round? What is a ten?)

Why You Should Use Math Vocabulary As Much As Possible

Incorporating vocabulary into your math lessons is so important for students to really understand the terms. The key is: It should become a natural part of the way students speak about math.

Be sure to always use the proper terms. (Say sum, not answer.) This will help students as they advance in math through elementary school and beyond. It will also help students not be overwhelmed by math jargon when they are doing end-of-year testing.

Tell us in the comments below, how do you like to use math vocabulary in your classroom?

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