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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Math

Creating a Math Word Wall to Support Writing About Mathematical Thinking
Sarah Picard

Many state math standards require students to not only solve problems with accuracy, but also require students to explain their problem solving process in writing. This can be a challenge to students who are learning English as a second language or for students who struggle with language processing. Creating a Math Word Wall in the classroom can support children’s writing about their mathematical thinking.

The match word wall is a bulletin board space that will contain several math vocabulary words for the students to use in the math writing. You will place new words on the word wall as you introduce new terms to the class.

Start your word wall by clearing a bulletin board space in the classroom. You will want the wall to be at least four feet long by four feet wide. You may want to section off a small section of the wall for each letter so that the words can be placed in alphabetical order easily. See the example below.

Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee
Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj
Kk Ll Mm Nn Oo
Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt
Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy
Zz        

Then, as you introduce new math vocabulary, add the word on a small index card to the wall. You will probably want to include a visual of the term on the card as well. For example, you may draw one dot on the one card and four dots on the four card. The square card may have a small square drawn on it. These visuals will especially help those who are learning English as a second language.

Some suggestions for word to add to a first or second grade Math Word Wall are listed below. Some words may be more appropriate for first grade and others more appropriate for second grade. This may depend on the math curriculum your district adopts.

Numbers
one
two
three
four
five
six
seven
eight
nine
ten
eleven
twelve
thirteen
twenty
thirty
forty
fifty
sixty
seventy
eighty
ninety
one hundred

Addition and Subtraction Vocabulary
added on
subtracted
equal or equals
plus
minus

Measurement
inch
foot
yard
mile
centimeter
meter

Shapes
square
circle
rectangle
hexagon
octagon
rhombus

If you want students to use this word wall as they write about their problem solving, you will want to take the time to put the words up on the wall in front of the students. You will also want to READ the word wall periodically so students get used to locating words quickly when they need them in their writing. Some teachers practice reading the word wall quickly before lining up to go to lunch or recess. They use a pointer to point to the words and read the words on the wall in alphabetical order.

I’ve found word walls to be a helpful learning aid for early grade students, especially for ESL students. Give it a try and let me know your results.

 

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