Math PK-2

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Math PK-2 > Strategies > Accessible Vocabulary & Syntax

Accessible Vocabulary & Syntax


Teachers support language development by using and providing vocabulary and syntax that is appropriately leveled (e.g. using short, simple sentences for young students). When educators incorporate challenging but accessible math words in their daily instruction, they create a contextual environment for students to practice, apply, and grow their Language Skills. Knowledge of mathematical vocabulary is specifically linked to success with word problem solving and is especially valuable for learners whose Primary Language is not English.

Apply It to Your Learning Environment

  • Understanding how learner factors connect to Working Memory, Attention, and Long Term Memory is a critical component to selecting the right strategy or set of strategies to support learners.
  • Simplifying syntax can relieve students' cognitive load in Working Memory and help them focus on learning new terms.
  • Ensure that terms are explicitly taught and that learners have repeated exposure to key words over an extended period of time by incorporating words into additional activities, games, and technology supports over time to solidify their learning in Long Term Memory.
  • Displaying math words visually in the learning environment and actively referring to them can support students' Short-term Memory and facilitates transition of these words into Long-term Memory and natural speech.
  • Encourage learners to use new vocabulary terms when explaining their thinking to the class including prompting them to restate a sentence using a new or featured math vocabulary term.
  • Make connections to the words and mathematical concepts, especially ones relevant to learners' experience.
  • Understand how certain vocabulary terms may differ from their use in everyday vocabulary such as: difference, product, power, times, and face. It's important to highlight the meaning of these words in different contexts.
  • Add opportunities to use vocabulary in lesson reflections.
  • Include opportunities for synchronous small group math discussions to allow students opportunities to engage and apply math vocabulary.
  • Ensure that opportunities for peer feedback and reflection whether synchronous or asynchronous include math terms.
  • Videos, vocabulary and resources in multiple languages should populate the classroom or online spaces.
  • Using cognates can support learners, particularly ELL's, who are acquiring new vocabulary in an additional language.
  • Having learners keep their own lists of math words can help those who may need support around different or additional words beyond what is displayed in a classroom.
  • Highlight relationships between words, concepts, and ideas with the use of a graphic organizer, or visual displays such as word wall.
  • Sharing terms and tips for supporting vocabulary development in home learning environments can help families extend opportunities to solidify learning around new terms.

Watch how this first grade teacher models vocabulary in her instruction in addition to using an interactive word wall. By slowing her speech and adding hand gestures, she highlights complex vocabulary and provides the opportunity for students to try to incorporate them into their own language.

Apply It to Product Development

  • Provide adaptive language that adjusts to the appropriate vocabulary and syntax complexity that can be read and understood by learners.
  • Develop features for learners to practice target math words and grow their Language Skills.
  • Use consistent and accurate language throughout the product.
  • Provide sentence frames and annotating capability for mathematical word problems.
  • Illustrated or animated math vocabulary libraries can support English language learners and supports Working Memory.

Factors Supported by this Strategy

Numeracy and Mathematics
Language Skills
Social and Emotional Learning

About this Strategy Content

The research review for this strategy was conducted by the LVP team. Application, examples, and resources were sourced with support from our Practitioner Advisory Board.