Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The language of Mathematics

How important is the language we surround our students with when we talk about Maths???

The answer... language is EVERYTHING!

Mathematical language (along with language related to everything else we learn) is key!
It not only gives us the words to describe our learning but also puts us all on the same page.
A recent example:
A new Year 2 student arrived at school and was settling in well. He had made great friends and appeared to have a solid understanding of maths in all areas currently being covered. The teacher then wanted to spend time with the class revising the concept of 'Tens Facts" - all the combinations of numbers that add up to 10. The term "Tens Facts" drew nothing but blank looks from the new student and the teacher could not understand why he was not joining in.
After several conversations, modelling and use of resources... a light bulb suddenly went on!
"Friends of Ten!" came the shout!
The connection had been made - a common language and understanding had been built between teacher and student. Without that time and commitment to talking and sharing - this learning opportunity would have been lost. Instead, he was able to happily join in and participate fully in the lesson. "Friends of Ten" was also then shared with the rest of the class - growing everyone's vocabulary in the process.
It is impossible to think that language from school to school, and even classroom to classroom, will ever be exactly the same. However, sparing a few minutes at the start of a lesson to ensure everyone has the same understanding of the language being used is time well spent. Strategies such as Word Walls, information posters, Maths journals or brainstorming words when starting a new topic are all great ways to consolidate student's understanding, dispel any misconceptions and broaden everyone's mathematical vocabulary.
If you have any other examples where mathematical language has proven difficult for students - please feel free to let us know, along with how you solved the problem!