Teaching Math Vocabulary

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

There is a massive assumption in math teaching, which stems from poor reading instruction, that is causing dyslexic students to struggle in math when they otherwise would not. This is the assumption that students understands what mathematical symbols mean.


The basics of math symbols are: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 + - =. We assume, as teachers and parents, that our kids know what each of these symbols represents. As the student progresses in math, we assume that as new symbols are introduced, the student understands what these symbols mean. This assumption is not only wrong; it is dangerous. For example, the other day, I was working with a bright student who, on a conceptual basis, does not have any math difficulties. However, she is struggling in math at school. She was given the problem and asked to state the number sentence in words. She had had ZERO clue as to what meant. She struggled with even < and >. On an even more simple basis, have you ever witnessed a student, or your child, add when they were supposed to subtract or vise versa? How