I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Sandy Atkins at the Wisconsin Math council conference. Her session was all about Creating a Language Rich Classroom.
This session blew my mind to think of all of the complexities of language when we are teaching math. Here is an example of a kindergartener’s thinking.
Dr. Atkins: “What are some time words you know?”
Dr. Atkins: “What does seconds mean?”
Student: “You know, when you get more.”
Dr. Atkins: “Can you tell me more?”
Student: “Like when you get more dinner helpings!”
This student had the correct meaning for seconds, but had a mental block in their mind about how it had to do with time! So many math words have double meanings, and if we don’t dig deep we may not even be aware of a misconception.
A very simple way to incorporate conceptual language (and to listen to their vocabulary use) is to encourage student talk while they are playing games in your classroom. For example, when playing “memory/concentration” you must explain WHY or WHY NOT your two cards are a match. Check out her awesome FREE games at her website, Creating Ah-Has.