Using Mathematic Vocabulary to Close the Gap
A recent article in edutopia, "Developing Students' Academic Vocabulary Helps Beat Achievement Gap," describes how one administrator uses sheltered language techniques to shrink the achievement gap in science and math between Hispanic students and their white peers in his small school district. Profound changes can occur in academics when student vocabulary development is emphasized. The author, Ben Johnson, presents strategies that work, using examples from class lessons. He suggests that teachers very deliberately introduce vocabulary that may be new to students. In a math classroom, for instance, the vocabulary of geometric solids--rectangular prism, triangular prism, pyramid, etc--may be encountered for the first time. Teachers may need to pause, and provide accessible ways to familiarize students with the words. Using examples from a science classroom, Johnson details specific ways to help students: 1) recognize the words in context, 2) reproduce the words in context, and 3) write the words in context.
As you read his article, think about how it might be applied in the mathematics classroom setting. Also, consider how the Word Resource Cards and the related glossary in the back of student math journals provide related vocabulary development and support.