2: Helping students develop the specialised language of mathematics

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Understanding the specialised language of mathematics and being able to confidently use this language are essential to the growth of mathematical understanding. Many mathematical tasks and activities require students to read and interpret both written words and symbols. This resource provides strategies that teachers have used to help their students develop and strengthen their understanding of mathematical terminology.

Why is this important?

Several aspects of mathematical language present students with additional challenges. Making these challenges explicit helps students to realise that mathematical language is something that needs to be learned and practised. Developing confidence with mathematical language is a complex process. Teachers need to be deliberate about the way they introduce, use, and reinforce mathematical terms. Vocabulary building should be incorporated into the teacher’s planning as a key focus in the day-to-day teaching of mathematics. For strategies to support the particular needs of English language learners, see resources 3 and 4, which outline these.

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