The Power of Language in Math

Posted on January 19, 2020. Filed under: Uncategorized |

 Things to Think About

For many students who struggle with mathematics, word problems are just a jumble of words and numbers.  Zorfass, Graw and PowerUp


People often say language doesn’t matter.  But consider the fact that we say “turn the volume up” or “measure the volume of this box.” We say, “Set that on the table” and “Let’s make a table to solve that.” We say “That’s odd” but ask  “Which one of these is an odd number?” We say “I want some of those” and we ask “What’s the sum?”  The language of math is so difficult.  We have to consider the different types of words and how they have multiple meanings in everyday language and then in math.

One time I asked a student what an “expression” was and he said “Oh that’s something you make on your face.”  I said, “Yes it is, but what about in math.” He had no idea.   I asked another student “What does the word multiple mean?” She said,  “Oh you know it is when you have a lot of copies of something.” One of the first things that I do when I am unpacking a word problem with students is to make sure that they understand what all the words in the problem mean. If we are going to help students to get better at word problems, we have got to help them get better at understanding math words.

In this upcoming series: I will be talking about 6 things you can do!  Stay Tuned!

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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