Saturday, June 15, 2013

Get Your Math On! Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 2


Welcome to Chapter 2 of Building Mathematical Comprehension!  In this chapter, Laney explains the importance of vocabulary instruction in math and ways to help students master the vocabulary they need to be successful in math. Most of us know that students can increase their vocabulary through lots of reading.  But this won't work as well in math as most of the words students need to know in math won't appear often enough in their reading, and it is often difficult  to infer the meanings of unfamiliar, content-specific words. So in order for children to be successful in mathematics we must provide direct instruction of mathematical vocabulary.
Many of you are probably already familiar with Marzano's work in vocabulary development.  I've summarized his characteristics of effective instruction and the six steps for teaching new words.

How do you decide what words to teach?  The ideal situation would be for teams of teachers to examine the standards for their grade level and identify the words that students must know to be successful with the concepts.  Some districts/states provide vocabulary lists which makes it easier to make sure you are teaching  words that align with your standards and objectives. My district is moving to a new lesson planning system next year and our curriculum is written in units of study.  Key vocabulary is provided in each unit plan.

Here are some key ideas from the chapter:
  • Importance of discussion -Students need to be able to use their new words to explain and describe their thinking and observations during math.  After reading Deb Diller's Math Workstations book several summers ago I followed her suggestion and started adding math talk cards to some of our work stations.  These cards serve as a reminder to students to use their new math vocabulary.  For example, early in the year we review the terms more and less, so in a comparison station, there may be a card that reads:

I have _____ cubes.
My partner has ____ cubes.
I have ____ more/less than my partner.

  • Writing in math- Journal writing, first modeled by the teacher, allows children to describe their knowledge and explain their strategies and thinking.  They can also reflect on their learning.  We have been using the Exemplars problem solving program in our district, and one of the things that I love is that is stresses the importance of explaining your thinking and using math vocabulary.  One of the tips we learned was to have students highlight all of the math words they used when finished.  You can easily tell who really understands the term and used it correctly to solve the problem and who is just writing words they think the teacher wants to hear!  Journals can also be used to record new vocabulary.  Students can record the word, write a definition in their own words, draw a picture and then give an example.  I want to try this next year!  I envision modeling it as a whole group activity at first and then gradually having students create their own journal activities.  I loved the idea of creating PowerPoint presentations for the words also.  We are getting an Ipad for our classrooms next year, so I want to explore apps that might be appropriate for vocabulary presentations. I was inspired by this photo on Pinterest to create these cards to use while modeling how to record new vocabulary.

  • Math word walls-Although I had a lot of math anchor charts in my room that displayed key vocabulary, I did not have a word wall dedicated to math.  An effective word wall would display not only the word but a graphic representation.  I plan on using the card below for my wall next year.     I never thought about playing the same kind of word wall games with the math wall as I do with my high frequency word wall, but games like Be a Mind Reader and Wordo would be just as much fun with math words!  There are tons of resources for word wall activities out there; here's just one link I found.
Vocabulary Cards

  • Using graphic organizers- All of the graphic organizers we are accustomed to using in language arts and other subjects can be used in math.  I particularly like the idea of creating a concept map for a number and asking the students to show ideas about the number.Check out Donna's Wanted poster!                                        
    Math Coach's Corner
  • Games- Students love games!  Some examples that Laney provided are:
    • Vocabulary charades
    • Make My Day
    • Math Hunt
    • Talk a Mile a Minute
    • I Have, Who Has?   My kids loved "I Have, Who Has?" games.  Here is one I created for practicing adding and subtracting 1 or 2 and using the terms more than and less than.
  • Literature- Don't forget about all the wonderful literature out there that can be used for math!  I loved Laney's idea of having the students create charts or multimedia presentations of the math terms used in the book. My favorite books specifically designed for math instruction are Stuart Murphy's wonderful Mathstart series.
Wow, this is the longest post I've ever written (probably too long!) but this is such an important chapter filled with great information.  I'm anxious to hear your thoughts on math vocabulary instruction.  Please link up or share with a comment.  Please visit Beth and Sonya to read their posts on this chapter as well.

Thinking of Teaching

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  1. Carol,
    I just discovered your blog on Beth's Thinking of Teaching blog. I'm your newest follower, as we old timers should stick together! LOL I'm an older timer than you--will start year number 43 this fall. Drop by my blog and look around. Perhaps you'll want to follow this antique teacher as well.

    1. Wow, 43 years! Not sure if I'll make it that far. I'm a new follower of your blog, as well.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What an excellent job of breaking down this chapter! I am really excited to use your ideas and the fabulous downloads you've created. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts!

  3. I know! This chapter was p.a.c.k.e.d. full, wasn't it?! I agree you did a great job of breaking it down!! And a great BIG thanks for the freebies! Awesome!

    Primary Inspired

  4. This is a great post with tonnes of ideas. Thanks so much for linking up and hosting this chapter. I love the vocab words and am excited to see how I can use them with my Grade 3's.
    Thinking of Teaching

  5. Lots of great ideas. I need to do more with a math word wall. I had done one when I taught a different grade, but I need to do it with my new grade. I needs to make a list of important vocab words too. I think my to do list just got longer! Thanks for your blog.