This is part 3 of a 3-part series discussing the relationship between math and language, as presented by Kathleen Aiken Babineau, M.S., CCC-SLP.
We have already talked about vocabulary involved in math, including symbolic, content, and academic vocabulary as well as research in this area. Now, we have reached the best part- what can we do to help? Some strategies are discussed below with some examples. Please note that these are offered as suggestions only. Each child may have his/her own individual strengths/weakness and additional support may be required.
First, the English language has over 450,000 words (estimated by Chall, 1987), meaning we must be selective in what words we teach. When selecting words, consider how relevant and meaningful the word is to the child- the more relevant, the more learning.
Once you have selected words, try some of the strategies below:
- Math Journal/ Vocabulary folder. This is a place for your child to journal about new words. They can create their own definitions and illustrations. Have them review it and talk about the words.
- Math Dictionary. This may include making pictures, posters, or vocabulary cards that illustrate the meaning of different math words and terms. Have the child share them with siblings or other family members to provide the repeated exposure to a word that is essential for learning.
- Create a “math cheat” sheet using a 1-2 sided sheet of paper for quick reference in the classroom. This may include having sections for units of measurement (e.g., inches, feet, yards) with visuals or a section for all terms that involve addition (e.g., plus, sum, all together, combined), subtraction, fractions, division, and multiplication.
- Play games that incorporate math vocabulary. This might include word searches (there are many available online), Hangman, “I’m thinking of a word that…”, crossword puzzles, or just describing words while playing a game.
- Pre-teach vocabulary by reviewing at home before the lesson. Describe and explain words and provide examples.
- Talk about how new words are similar or different from words the child already knows
- Try to make “associations” between words by linking them to other words or ideas. For instance, you could talk about fractions while enjoying a pizza or a pie together on a Saturday night. This provides your child with opportunity to use the word and tie it to personal experience.
- Keep an eye out for math concepts and vocabulary while reading with your child. This creates yet another way for your child to make links and “experience” the word. Some suggestions are include The Napping House by Don and Audrey Wood as well as Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema.