Students will learn math vocabulary.
Main Curriculum Tie:
Mathematics - 4th Grade
Standard 1 Objective 3
Model and illustrate meanings of multiplication and division of whole numbers and the addition and subtraction of fractions.
- Chart for each operation
- Doctor costume and 5-6
surgical masks for your
- Operation box (shoe
box, shop towel, and
- Operation Vocabulary
- Operation Song overhead
- Krypto games
- On Beyond A Million
- Flip Flash Math
- On Beyond A Million, by David Schwartz; ISBN 0440411777
- G Is for Google: A Math Alphabet Book, by David Schwartz;
Background For Teachers:
W.F. Lindgren said, “Mathematics is a language. Reading a
mathematics text is somewhat like reading Tolstoy’s Anna
the original Russian. No matter how excellent the math instruction is, if
the students do not know and understand the meaning of the vocabulary
they will not learn what is necessary.”
One of the basic skills needed to understand the meanings of the four
operations is a thorough understanding of math vocabulary. Math
requires a specialized set of vocabulary, just as subjects such as
technology, music, art, and science do. Students must comprehend math
vocabulary if they are going to be able to reason and communicate
Intended Learning Outcomes:
1. Demonstrate a positive learning attitude toward mathematics.
2. Become mathematical problem solvers.
Invitation to Learn
Dress up in a doctor costume for math class and use your acting
abilities to become Dr. Mathemator—an operation specialist! Introduce
your students to the vocabulary for each operation in a fun and engaging
way. A suggested script is below, but use your own personality and
imagination to make this work for you.
“Hello! I am Dr. Mathemator and I am ready to operate! Who
was it that needed an operation? Aha! Are you the one that needs
brain surgery? Over there, do you need a new liver? I know I have
a spare one somewhere! Oh, you are definitely in need of
_________ (looking confused) Why are you looking so puzzled and
laughing at me? Am I in the wrong class? Is this not Surgery 101?
What class is this? Math? Well then I am in luck, this class will be
just fine for me. There are lots of operations to be done in math!
You don’t believe me? We might not do brain surgery, but we will do
addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and they are all
operations! So—it is time to begin!
This lesson includes vocabulary for all four operations. You would
not teach these all at once, but rather teach each set of vocabulary as
you introduce the operation throughout the year. After teaching each
set you can also use them for a review.
- Advanced preparations:
- Copy the Operation Vocabulary Cards onto
them apart, and laminate. Put a large chart paper on the
- Make your “Operation” box—make a head
and attach to
one end, cover with a blue shop towel that has a slit down
the center, and place your cards in the box. (Similar to the
- Remember to ham this up to make it fun! Use the pliers
reach into your patient (box) and search around until you find
the operation sign (+ - x ÷). Pull it out and say, “Aha!
our first operation! What is it?”
Place the sign on the large chart paper. “That is a fine operation!
But what exactly does it do? Let’s see what we can find in here
to help us understand ____________ (name of operation) better.”
Call up some assistants, give each a surgical mask and have them
reach inside patient to pull out a card. Place each card on the
chart and discuss it.
- Make sure students understand the “big idea” of
Addition—get them all
Subtraction—take away or compare
Multiplication—total of equal groups, repeated addition
Division—separate into equal groups, repeated subtraction
students some memory devices to help them remember key
Journaling Activity: Write vocabulary words your students have
problems with and think of memory devices to help them
Addends—“Addends, addends, add them at the end” (like
Subtrahend—on the bottom like a submarine, crawl on floor
as you repeat “I am the subtrahend, I am on the bottom.”
Minuend—I am the number that gets diMINished, or made
smaller. Pass out licorice sticks—have them take a bite and
say I just diminished this, it is smaller.”
Factor—We don’t “fear factors”–they
let us multiply!
- Teach students the Operation Song to help them remember
meaning of each operation and the vocabulary associated with it.
To help students remember the inverse operations, divide class
into four parts, assign them to sing one operation’s verse, then
have them pair up with their inverse (addition-subtraction) (muliplication-division)
and sing both verses together.
- Place each of the operation signs on one
wall of your room. Pass
out missing operation problem cards. Have students decide which
operation they would use to solve their problem and go stand
under that sign. Have them solve their problems to make sure
their choice is correct. Switch cards and repeat.
- Vocabulary Krypto—Play
the familiar Krypto game with a twist!
Students must explain their solutions using math vocabulary.
Example: I multiplied the factor 3 by the factor 8 which gave me
a product of 24. I used the divisor 6 to get the quotient 4.
One bonus point is awarded for each correct vocabulary word
- Have advanced learners search for new and unique vocabulary
words and make their own math dictionaries to write those words
in. Write a sentence for each word that provides a context clue to
the meaning of the word.
Example: Factor—I multiplied the factors 2 and 4 to get
8. Students can interview older students taking advanced math
classes, look on the Internet, or read books such as On
Beyond a Million and G is for Google.
- Use Flip-Flash
Math Vocabulary sets for practice and assessment
- Observing the students during the activity outlined
in step 6
provides you with information about the students’ level of
- Make a formal written test using the missing operation
- Assign a problem solving activity and have students format their
answers using math vocabulary and concepts.
Example: There are 36 students in our class. We need to make 9
groups. How many students will be in each group?
This is a division problem because we have a large group that
needs to be separated into smaller equal groups. The dividend is
36 and we divide it using the divisor, which is 9. The quotient is
4, so there will be 4 students in each group.
- You can adapt the math writing
for students who struggle with
writing by having them illustrate and label each part of the
problem. Higher level students can write and solve their own
Hougue, M.D. (2003). Enriching Math Vocabulary–Measuring up to
the PSSA, Slippery
Rock University of Pennsylvania, Online at www.tec.iup.eud/mhougue/literary
This article discusses the premise that students lacking an
understanding of math vocabulary are handicapped in their efforts to
Raiker, A. (2002). Spoken Language and Mathematics. Cambridge
Journal of Education.
Rubenstein, R. & Thompson, D. (2002). Understanding and Supporting Children’s
Mathematical Vocabulary Development. Teaching Children Mathematics.
sources were quoted extensively and provide additional
information on the importance of developing strong math vocabulary
skills in our students.
Created Date :
Dec 20 2005 10:20 AM