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Building Academic Vocabulary in Math
Teachers will have an understanding of how to
teach vocabulary within the math framework
following Marzano’s six-step process.
Marzano, R. J. and Pickering, D.,
(2005). Building Academic Vocabulary
Teacher’s Manual. Alexandria, VA:
“Good vocabulary instruction helps children gain
ownership of words, instead of just learning words
well enough to pass a test. Good vocabulary
instruction provides multiple exposures through rich
and varied activities to meaningful information about
the word.”
(Stahl & Kapinus, 2001, p. 14)
If you are taking your students through an
exploration, vocabulary instruction can take
place after the exploration to cement what was
If a formal lesson is used, vocabulary
instruction should take place prior to
Vocabulary can also be embedded within your
whole group instruction, summarizing and note
Research has shown that direct and explicit
instruction is an effective way for students to
acquire vocabulary knowledge.
Students must encounter words in context more
than once to learn them.
Instruction of new words supports learning when
used in context.
(Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock, 2001, 124-127)
(Hiebert & Kamil, 2005; McKeown & Beck, 2004; Stahl & Nagy, 2006)
1. Explain
2. Restate
3. Graphical
• Together, these steps can help
ensure that teachers appropriately
introduce new terms and help
students develop an initial
understanding of them.
4. Activities
5. Discussions
6. Games
• These steps describe different types
of multiple exposures that students
should experience over time to help
them shape and sharpen their
understanding of the terms.
(Marzano and Pickering, 2005, pp. 14-15)
Ask students what they know about the term.
Build on students understanding
(Marzano and Pickering, 2005, p. 15)
It is critical that instead of simply copying what the
teacher has said, the students “own” the new
words by constructing their own meanings for the
The construction of the term does not need to be
comprehensive, but efforts
should be made to ensure
they do not contain major
Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or
graphic representation of a term; this forces them
to think of the term in a totally different way.
Research shows that one of
the best ways to learn a new
word is to associate it with
an image.
(Marzano and Pickering, 2005)
Understanding deepens over time if students
continually reexamine their understanding of a
given term.
Activities should be designed to
engage students explicitly in the
focused review of targeted items.
(Marzano and Pickering, 2005)
Interacting with other people about what we are
learning deepens the understanding of everyone
involved- particularly when we are learning new
Although student discussions can be informal
and unstructured, the teacher may want to
provide a structure.
Games are one of the most underused instructional
tools in education.
Many types of games can help teachers keep new
terms in the forefront of students’ thinking and allow
students to reexamine their understanding of terms.
It is important to set aside blocks
of time each week to play games
in order to energize students and
guide them in the review and use
of important terms.
C1(C) use strategic learning techniques such
as concept mapping, drawing, memorizing,
comparing, contrasting, and reviewing to acquire
basic and grade-level vocabulary;
C1(E) internalize new basic and academic
language by using and reusing it in meaningful
ways in speaking and writing activities that build
concept and language attainment;
C1(F) use accessible language and learn new
and essential language in the process
Give students a permanent reference for
vocabulary, allowing them to review words daily
and ultimately improve their comprehension.
Teachers and students should periodically
interact with word wall.
Current words should be added as they are
Effort should be made to distinguish between old
and new terms.
Three categories of terms:
SAME: Words that have the same meaning in
“Math English” as in “Standard English.”
dollars, cents
ONLY MATH: Words that have meaning only in
“Math English.”
numerator, isosceles
DIFFERENT: Words that have different meanings in
“Math English” and in “Standard English.”
table, right
UCTM Annual Math Conference
The team will pass the plate for a
period of 2 minutes writing as many
mathematical words that have
multiple meanings.
One person will start by writing a
word on the plate when time begins,
then pass the marker and plate to
the next person in the team.
The next team member will write a
new word on the plate and pass it
The plate will continue to rotate
among each team member until time
is called.
( ) •x ∞ < >
~ ÷ √ ± /\ ≥ ≤
∆ → ↔ ∴
% ° ∩ ∪ ∈   ! ││ ┴
ǁ ´ ³ « » Ø ↺ ⇜
∗ ∠
UCTM Annual Math Conference
Marzano’s 6-step process
Interactive Word Wall
Words with multiple meanings
Symbols in math
Marzano, R. J. and Pickering, D., (2005). Building
Academic Vocabulary Teacher’s Manual. Alexandria,
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