Monday, August 30, 2010

Topic: The Vocabulary of Mathematics

Purpose of this blog: Reviews of interesting ideas in past professional English education journals.

10-second review: Four types of vocabulary found in math problems.

Title: “Teaching the Vocabulary of Mathematics Through Interaction, Exposure and Structure.” AB Pachtman and JD Riley. Journal of Reading (December 1978), 240-244.

The Four Types of Vocabulary in Math
Quote: “Generally, in word problems students are asked to cope with four types of terminology: technical vocabulary, symbols, everyday vocabulary used in a mathematics context and general vocabulary.”

Example of a Math Problem and Its Vocabulary
“Find four consecutive odd integers when the first, second and third integers minus the fourth equal 26.”

Quote: “In this problem, some words have a general usage, such as ‘find’ and ‘equal.’ The meanings of the words are modified by the mathematical context. ‘Find’ implies that some mathematical operation is to be performed and that there is some solution to be determined. ‘Equal’ implies that there are two equivalent numerical quantities that must be found before the solution can be determined. ‘Odd’ implies not divisible by two.”

“There are also words that have meanings specific to mathematics, such as ‘integers’ and ‘consecutive.’ Compounding the difficulty of understanding such words is that no clearly identifiable context exists to give a clue to their meanings. The student merely reads these terms and is immediately expected to apply their meaning s in solving the problem.”

“To further complicate the problem solving process, there are mathematical concepts implied in the problem. Terms such as properties, commutation, association, operations, addition, multiplication, associative, and distributive are inherent in the problem and yet do not appear. Somehow, students are expected to know these terms and the concepts associated with them.”

Comment: No wonder I became an English major. RayS.

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