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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Math is a Language


mathI am so excited about the Numbers Talk book study in a few weeks!! I started to tell you on Tuesday my philosophy of math but then I figured I needed an entire post to share my thoughts.

A few weeks ago I was working with the curriculum coach and he made the comment that “math is its own language. Just as one has to be taught how to speak English; one must also be taught how to speak math.”

I never thought of math this way before. I also never saw myself as a math teacher but here I am. I finally decided that the problem with math isn’t math but how we teach it!

With Language Arts, we don’t tell a student to do language arts. We break it down into tiny pieces for them: reading, writing, handwriting, phonics, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar. Why do we do this? Because its easier to practice a single component than do everything at once.

Why do math?

Now that is the question. Why do students do math but not language arts? What would happen if we broken up math into the same tiny components we do with language arts? Would students become more successful? I think they would! How would we even begin?

Phonics:  In order to read, you must know your letter sounds and names. In order to do math, you must know the names of the letters and their values.

Vocabulary: We teach vocabulary in Language Arts so students can understand what they are reading and to be able to better explain themselves in speaking and writing. In math, we need to teach vocabulary again so the students can find the details within the subtleties of the text. We ask a student to define, write a sentence, draw a picture, and find the synonym and antonym. Students need to do the same thing for mathematics.   What is a synonym for add? (all together, sum, etc..) What is the antonym? (subtract, take away, etc..)

Spelling: We teach a student to spell words so they can understand how to use in them in reading and writing. To me this is similar to mastering place value. We must first understand the values and how a number is written in order to be able to manipulate it.

Writing: To respond to what we read or to communicate an idea, we write. In math, we write to solve a problem or demonstrate a solution or idea.

Reading: To understand a story we must first be able to read the words. To solve a problem we must first be able to read it. To help students become better readers, we focus on sight words. To helps students become better mathematicians we focus on basic operations. To help a student become better readers. To help student become better mathematicians, we teach them strategies.

Grammar:  We categorize letters by vowels and consonants or by the parts of speech. We must be able to classify numbers as well. Odd or even. Prime or composite. Greater than or Less than. Multiples of and in fact families.

Now we obviously don’t want to use the same terms as language arts but if you look closely I was able to break math up into time building blocks in which students can learn. I also did not include all aspects of math. There is still so much more to explore!

I am so excited about putting this new theory into action in my classroom.

I have taken my math time and broken it down into various components. Instead of doing math, my students will practice basic operations (3 minute timed review) and using dictation record a number of the day, write the name of the number in multiple ways, identify place values, and classify the number (5 minutes).

Every math unit will include vocabulary. Student will define, find antonyms and synonyms, write a sentence, and draw a picture. They will also have a math vocabulary test. This is exactly the same thing they do in language arts when learning a new word. I know that this would help so many of my students better understand!

I am planning on using an interactive notebook to record all of our math adventures including our daily review of the various language components of math. I will post more about how this works for us throughout the upcoming year.

Math is a Language


At May 9, 2013 at 8:28 AM , Blogger Mrs. Sanders said...

This is so true! I am trying much harder as a math teacher to incorporate vocabulary-correct vocabulary into each lesson. I use the frayer model for words. I haven't done this as much as I need to, but plan on correcting it next year. I feel like the students will show improvement when I teach vocabulary more and correctly! Please post more ideas as they come to you. I really enjoy reading your blog!


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