Friday 17 October 2014

Embedding Mathematical Vocabulary Using Writing

The idea for this post came from a few bad puns in a Twitter conversation I was having with @grahamandre and +Mike Watson . We were including mathematical words in our tweets. This gave me and idea for how to embed mathematical vocabulary in the classroom.

It is important that children understand key mathematical vocabulary. Often in classrooms this is displayed on working walls as decontextualised lists. Sometimes it is even too small for the naked eye to see from anything more than 3 inches away! I'm not sure how this helps children to get to grips with the vocabulary.

How about asking children to complete a short (or long) piece of writing that contains given mathematical vocabulary that you would like them to focus on? Very much like a writing constraint at the same time. There are some excellent ideas for using writing constraints on @IctMrP's blog and Alan Peat often talks of using writing constraints. If the the children are to use the mathematical vocabulary in their writing, they must understand what it means for the writing to make sense to the reader. Therefore, it should help to embed their understanding in a more meaningful way than a group of microscopic words used to fill a space on a classroom wall.

The genre of the writing doesn't matter. It is more about challenging the children to use the mathematical vocabulary in the correct context. For example, you could provide the children with some form of stimulus for writing a setting description. If the children had been learning about perimeter, the description could include a sentence such as:

The rocky, overgrown garden was surrounded on all sides by a perimeter of thorny bushes.

This is just one example. If you are inclined to give this a try in your own classrooms, please let me know how it went. You can tweet me at @bryngoodman. Hopefully, this could be a way of developing children's written vocabulary as well as their understanding of mathematical concepts. Two birds, one stone. Could tick the cross-curricular box too.

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