Friday, 10 August 2012

Common Core Math Vocabulary Cards

Once upon a time, when math textbooks were essentially bound sets of worksheets, little emphasis was placed on math vocabulary. In elementary school, if you knew the meaning of words like multiply, decimal, and divisor, all was well. Math vocabulary grew in high school algebra and geometry, but there wasn't much deliberate teaching of academic language, in math or in any other content area.

Robert Marzano and others researchers recognized the need for effective, deliberate vocabulary instruction, emphasizing academic vocabulary. My work with English Learners brought this need home to me, since interpersonal communication is so different from academic language. Tennessee stepped up and created an Academic Vocabulary list with Dr. Marzano's guidance in 2006; I was privileged to work on the project in science.

In 2012, Tennessee's implementation of the vocabulary-dense Common Core standards demands effective teaching of academic language, and most teachers are looking for the best way to do so, having long-since let go of glossary definitions and vocabulary quizzes. (Thank goodness!)

“Only confusion will result when the name is demanded before the idea is mastered. Definitions alone rarely throw much light on the ideas they represent. They are usually the end product of much exploration and careful thought.”
Joan Countryman, Writing to Learn Mathematics, 1992

Granite School District in Utah is serious about students' academic vocabulary acquisition, and they have prepared some of the best resources I've seen. You will find:
  • math vocabulary lists by grade (including secondary)
  • a PowerPoint presentation about effective vocabulary instruction
  • templates for analogies, comparing terms, vocabulary journals, word walls, and more!
My personal favorites are the vocabulary cards for all grades. Each set of gorgeous cards begins with an instruction sheet for the teacher, and each card has three sections (except for the kindergarten cards.) The first is the word only, the second includes a graphic representation, and the third also includes a definition. The uses for each are explained. Here is a 6th grade example:

Print the cards for your grade or subject, separate into sections, laminate, and you will have manipulatives for your essential vocabulary to use over and over. You'll be glad you did!

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