Math as a Language

The first blog post I wrote was how to become math literate and what it means to be math literate. Expanding on that, this post will be about math as a language. Math can be a challenging subject for students now and again. Students have to learn new terms and symbols for the language of mathematics. There are some ways in which students confuse math as a language and there are different ways in which educators can guarantee that their students are able to understand the language of math. For students to develop mathematical literacy skills, educators can utilize guided talk and graphic representations. In the classroom, educators can offer direction on utilizing research to improve math instruction. Student-centered learning and building concept related skills are a significant aspect as well for students to develop their mathematical literacy skills.

The languages in the world share one thing in common, which is, they have a classification for words like nouns and verbs. This gives an intriguing method for looking at math as a language. Mathematical nouns represent things such as numbers, measurements, shapes, functions, patterns, and data.

The language of math was arranged in a way so we can write about things like numbers and functions and what we do with those things such as adding, subtracting, etc. Instead of words, math typically uses symbols. Some symbols may include the ten digits, operation symbols (+, =, -), variables like x and y, and special symbols like < or “pie”. Sometimes the alphabet can have special uses. The start of the alphabet is typically used as constants in a problem and the end of the alphabet is used as variables for an equation. Nouns could be fixed things such as numbers or expressions with numbers. The verb could be the equals sign or an inequality symbol. Pronouns could be the variables of x and y. Finally, everything can then be put into a sentence: 4x+9=16.


This past summer, I was able to study abroad in Ireland for a pre-student teaching experience. I was placed in a 4th class classroom, which would be 5th grade in the United States. When they would work on math, which they called Maths, it would be a little different than the United States. It caught me off guard when I first heard the word Maths because it was something I was not used to at all. The language that they used was worded a little different than how we say some math related things in the United States. Some of the phrasing was different than I had learned, but it was still overall math terms. I was very grateful to go to Ireland and have this experience in a culturally different classroom than I have been in before. It was eye opening to see a subject I love be taught in different ways, yet globally use the same basic math language.

As you can see, math has its own terms and symbols that are only used in math. If someone does not have developed math literacy skills to understand the language, they would have a hard time doing any problem solving in math. For students to succeed in math, it is so vital for them to understand the language used in math and many students might not realize that in the beginning. As educators we need to make sure students are learning the language to achieve success in math.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s