Archive for January, 2020

Math Texts are “Dense and Concept Loaded”

Researchers have found that the language of word problems is “dense and concept-loaded.” There is a whole lot of information in a small amount of text and therefore the text must be read carefully, thoroughly and attentively so that students comprehend what the problem is about (Heinze, 2005). This is only compounded for English Language Learners (Basurto, 1999). Because math word problems are “dense and loaded” teachers have to teach special reading comprehension strategies to successfully understand and solve them (Winograd & Higgins, 1994/1995). These involve, reading slowly and often more than once to make sure they fully understand the problem (Kang & Pham, 1995).

I also like to use graphic organizers.  I think they help students to navigate the word problem.  I have them think about the situation.  Think about how they might solve it. What model will they use?  What strategy will they use?  How will they check their work? I have them map out the problem so they can see it and work with it visually.

Problem Solving Mat 1

Problem-Solving-Template-2016-h (1)

“Language proficiency appears to be a contributing factor in problem solving; student performance on word problems is generally 10–30% below that on comparable problems in numeric format” (U.S. Department of Education, 2001).

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

Discount Code IRK69

https://www.routledge.com/Math-Problem-Solving-in-Action-Getting-Students-to-Love-Word-Problems/Newton/p/book/9781138206441

https://www.routledge.com/Math-Problem-Solving-in-Action-Getting-Students-to-Love-Word-Problems/Newton/p/book/9781138054530

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Math Language is Specialized

When you are trying to help your students navigate math vocabulary, have you considered its specialized nature?  (Gay, 2008; Rubenstein, 2007; Rubenstein and Thompson, 2002). Researchers note that it can be difficult for a variety of reasons.

1. Some words are used in both everyday English and in math, but have different meanings in each context. For example: Right angle versus right answer
2. Some words are specific math words. For example, addend, minuend, quotient
3. Some words have more than one meaning in math. For example: “A circle is round” or “Let’s round 145 to the nearest ten.”
4. Some words are homonyms to everyday English words. For example: table and feet
5. Some mathematical concepts are verbalized in more than one way. For example: One-quarter versus one-fourth
6. Some words are learned in pairs that are confusing students. For example: multiple and factor or area and perimeter.
7. Students sometimes use everyday words (informal words) instead of math word (formal). For example diamond for rhombus and corner for vertex.
8. Modifiers matter. For example, fraction vs. improper fraction and denominator vs. common denominator

The next time you get ready to teach math vocabulary (really we are integrating it throughout our day)… consider the above ideas and think about what challenges your students may have.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

Book Discount Code: IRK69

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The Power of Language in Math

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

P.S. Get the book:

Book Discount Code: IRK69
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