January 15, 2021

Vocabulary ELLs need to know to understand Math



Vocabulary ELLs need to know to understand Math


Vocabulary ELLs need to know to understand Math
Do your English Language Learners (ELLs) struggle with understanding Math?  Many ELLs do.  If you are working with English Language Learners (ELLs) studying Math here are a few things to make sure you cover!

Common English Words in Math

First let's look at the many English words that have totally new meanings when used in Math.  Here are just a few:
  • positive and negative
  • times
  • cone
  • mean
  • net
  • bring down
  • area
  • face
  • plane
  • tree
Before each lesson, take a moment and look for the Math vocabulary you are using in your lesson and identify which words you want to point out and make sure to explain.  For example, students should think 'multiplication' when a word problem uses words like times, every, double, and per.

Prepositions in Math

Make a point to teach, explain, review and practice prepositions.  Prepositions can signal the operation in a word problem.  Make sure your ELLs understand these important words in Math:
  • by
  • with 
  • to
  • into
  • from
  • and more!

Teach ELLs Content Words

All students benefit from using a Math Vocabulary Journal, but it is essential for the ELLs in your Math classes.  Before each unit present the Math vocabulary that will be used in that unit.  Pre-teaching Math Content Words and using a Math Journal will set your ELLs up for success.

Math Prefixes and Suffixes

Don't forget word parts that have keys to the meanings of the words you use in your math lessons.   Here are a few to get you started:
  1. bi
  2. tri
  3. poly
  4. oct
  5. gon 

Passive Voice

Many ELLs are unaccustomed to hearing and understanding the Passive Voice, yet many math word problems use it.  The word by gives you a clue to the passive.  In the passive voice, the action is performed on the subject.  ELLs have problems understanding statements such as:  seven multiplied by 6.  Point out and explain the passive voice to your students when it occurs in Math word problems.  

Vocabulary that is associated with mathematical operations

According to 'Limited English Proficient (LEP) Students'  A Supplemental Resource to the K-12 Mathematics Standards of Learning Enhanced Scope and Sequence  Virginia Department of Education Division of Instruction April 2004  in order to understand mathematics, students must:  

Know that mathematical operations are associated with many different words.  EXAMPLES: 

Addition: add, plus, and, combine, sum, total of, more than, increased by, greater than  

Subtraction: subtract, minus, less, less than, fewer than, decreased by, difference, lower, take away, from, shorter  

Multiplication: multiply, times, product, as a factor, twice, double, triple, groups of  

Division: divide, divided by, quotient, separated into equal groups, shared equally, over, into, how many groups  

Equal: is, are, result, make  


Here is a quick list from www.englishstudyhere.com


These are some ways to help your English language learners excel in Math!
Happy Teaching,

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