In 2004, there was a .932 correlation between reading and math scores on the California CST (blog.mrmeyer.com). As Mr. Meyer and others have pointed out, we are thus double penalizing our students for not knowing the language of mathematics.

Early in my math teaching career, I was exposed to the work of Miki Murray (http://www.heinemann.com/products/E00634.aspx ) who has done a lot of work with math vocabulary. She suggests that especially for geometry and parts of Algebra, teaching the students the vocabulary is really teaching them the subject matter - it's impossible to teach them the words without teaching them the math! Although at times I've had to adapt different strategies for different subjects, I've found the following strategies very helpful:

- 'foldable' pair-share vocabulary packets: Using a folding vocabulary packet, students can learn to self-quiz and pair-share with vocabulary using whiteboards to draw the word I'm asking them to reproduce.

- constantly use the words in class, even in non-teaching moments: Students are amazed that these are words that can be used all the time/are used all the time without them, "knowing". Especially things like slope, parallel, etc.

- Repetition. Vocabulary contests where students have to draw the words and explain them are great for helping them remember what's going on.

- I've added a page to my curriculum mapping Google Document (almost daily increasing links and about 5 other teachers in FUSD are now using it to help them too!)

Today for a sort of review day before Spring Break, I'm going to give them a bunch of problems - 10 problems per 4 minutes of distributive properties and solving for variable stuff. We'll only do 10 at a time because I want them to also enter the answers via Smart Response clickers after some basic review teaching of how distributive property works and what combining like terms means. Going from practical to theory seems to make sense, but most of these kids have been taught in the Age of Testing which has only stressed how to do it not Why we do it. So they know about Order of Operations, but don't understand there is a very clear reason we do it in that order... they know the order, but if they forget the memorization device they don't know what to do. It doesn't make sense for them to do the 'biggest change' (exponents) first and scale down all the way to negatives. They don't understand that 3x+3-5x is the same as "3x-5x+3" because they just look at the numbers/signs and rush to finish it. Negative signs and adding a negative are the same thing... so that's what we're working on here in Pre-Algebra!