A Great Math Word Wall: Why and How Should You Create One?
written by: Patricia Gable
• edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch
• updated: 6/29/2015
A math vocabulary word wall is a powerful tool to have in your classroom. Use games and other techniques to facilitate the mastery of math terms that students will use throughout their years of math study. Here are some ideas to help you.
slide 1 of 6
You have heard of word walls and may be using them for new vocabulary words or spelling words. But do you have one for math? Why have a math word wall? Learning math terminology is necessary for students to progress in mathematics.
The vocabulary needs to be taught especially in the early grades because it will be used and built upon throughout the years in school. Students need to master the vocabulary to comprehend spoken and written instructions. Math vocabulary word walls are also used to reinforce and prompt students who are explaining orally or in writing how they solved a math problem.
slide 2 of 6
Find an adequate space that is easily visible to all students. This could be an area of the wall or a cleared bulletin board. If you have an existing general word wall, use a different color background card to designate the math vocabulary. While a general word wall may be done in alphabetical order, you may want to organize the math word wall by concepts such as: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Time, Money, Measurement, Geometry and so on. It all depends on the grade level and the math concepts on which you are working.
slide 3 of 6
Making the Cards
Print the words on the cards with a black marker. You may include a picture clue to facilitate the mastery of the words. For example, in geometry you may add a drawing of a circle next to the word circle. In addition, for the word sum, you may draw a simple math problem and highlight the answer or sum.
Check the book series that you use for teaching math and see if there is a list of new terms for students to master for each chapter or concept.
Students can use index cards to make their own sets of words from the math vocabulary word wall. Keep them in individual zippered plastic bags. Label the bags with each child’s name and collect them in a basket. Pull them out when you need them to play a game or review.
slide 4 of 6
Working with the Math Vocabulary Wall
Try to review the Math vocabulary word wall as often as you can, even if all you do is have the class read the words aloud.
1. Write a math problem appropriate to your grade level on the board. Ask the students to write a sentence or paragraph using terms from the word wall to explain how to do the problem.
2. When solving problems on the board, the students should use proper terminology to discuss how it was solved.
slide 5 of 6
Techniques and Games to Reinforce Math Terms
1. Two students each choose a word randomly and tell how the words go together. (Analytical Thinking)
2. Students use the individual student-made bags of cards. Spread them out on their desks. Call out a simple definition of one of the words. Students should hold up the corresponding card.
3. Use a flashlight. Give a definition and a student points to the corresponding card on the wall with the flashlight. Pass the light to the next student.
4. Take all of the words down and mix them up. Put the concept headings (Geometry, Measurement, etc.) up and pass out the other cards to all of the students. Students need to bring the word cards to the wall and put each card under the right concept heading.
5. Give students a blank Bingo paper and instruct them to fill in words from the word wall in random order on their Bingo paper.
slide 6 of 6
If you have ever asked yourself, "Why have a math word wall when I have a general word wall?", I hope you now know the answer. A math vocabulary word wall is a powerful and effective resource in your classroom.