Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Math Word Walls

As part of the Math Classroom Challenge, today's post is about how you can use math word walls to support students in communicating with mathematical language.

Word walls are relatively common in the Language Arts realm, but why might we want to use them in math? How can we set up word walls in a way that give students the opportunity to actually make meaning of the words?

What exactly is a math word wall?
A math word wall is an area of the classroom in which key content words are displayed on a list or chart in order to help students learn mathematical vocabulary. Word walls aid in encouraging students to spell these words correctly and use them when they are speaking, reading and writing about math. You could also have other word walls for science, social studies, etc. It's a great tool!
At River Place Elementary, 1st grade has math word walls right on a large piece of chart paper!
Here's another example. This is simple and eye level for the students to see!
Here is another example from Becky Vaughn's 4th grade classroom at Westside.
Heidi Dominguez, teacher at Westside, set up a spot in her math area for her word wall right at the beginning of the year. It is nice and low for her class of 1st graders!

How often do I change out the words on a word wall?
Math word walls are constantly changing based on student level of understanding, unit of study, and/or real-world problem they are solving. Once students understand the words, you can take them down and add new words.
I like this word wall because of its simplicity. Grab a piece of chart paper, select about 10 core words from your unit of study, gather the students around and hang it up in the math area of your classroom. Add to it as the students learn. Don't buy something that is pre-made! It makes more sense to involve students for a couple of reasons:
1. It supports the LISD curriculum. Teacher stores usually don't have the most rigorous words.
2. Different students understand different words and that will change every year based on your class.
3. If students are involved in the creation of the word wall it sends a message to them that you care what they think and you care that they learn the words. Spotters ready...let's learn these words together!

What is the most important thing to remember about a word wall?
As my language arts friend Diana says, "They are dynamic and interactive!" Students need opportunities to make meanings of words on the word wall so they can communicate. Here are a few ideas:

I Say, You Say!
1. Point to the word on the word wall and have the students pronounce them with you.
2. Point to the words in order and mix them up when students become more fluent with the pronunciations.
3. Have students work together in partners with one partner pointing at the words and the other partner saying the words. Then, the partners switch and do the same thing.

Word Connection
1. Have students pair up.
2. Pick two words from the word wall and write them down.
3. Have students talk about how the words connect.
4. Share answers with another pair or as a class.

Vocabulary Cards
1. Have students use the Frayer model to create a vocabulary card for each content word on an index card.
2. Now the students have their own set of word wall cards!

Ready, Set, Redo!
1. Take down the words from the wall and have students sort them in a new organized way.
2. If students have their own set of cards (like mentioned above with the Frayer Model) they can just use their own.
3. Record the sort in their math journal.

Those are just a few basic strategies that I have found most helpful in getting students to communicate and learn math language, but we know that there are multiple paths to the same solution! What are some ideas that you have to make math word walls interactive and meaningful? Comment below!


  1. Is it ever a good idea to combine both math and language arts into one word wall

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