math as a language

Math as a Language

How to Understand Math - 5 Benefits to Looking at Math as a Language

How will viewing math as a language help improve the math learning experience?

In this article we debate the way math should be presented to students in the classroom to help build their math skills

Note: In the video and post below, we compare math language to the English language.

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Building Math Awareness​

Watch our video below to see that when teachers and students communicate using Math symbols and vocabulary, it is similar to communicating in a known spoken language. It may also help with making math easier to learn and with improving learning goals

Why View Math as a Language?​

Students in a math class need to be able to communicate their answers in clear and easy to follow steps. Often times students would rather avoid communicating a response and just give the final answer. 

kindness of teachers

However, when teachers insist that students communicate the steps to answers using math vocabulary, students will see (eventually) that it proves to be an invaluable tool for a solid understanding of the concepts.

A guide on how viewing math as a language benefits teachers and students is available for download at the end of this article. 

How Should Students Understand Math as a Language?​

At EduKitchen we believe that it is important for the student to take the time to go through explaining each step. 

go ahead and ask questions

Students at first may complain or feel like it takes a long time to explain each step in answering a question for a simple answer, but as students get used to communicating the process it will become more apparent to them that they are speaking a new language – the language of math.

How Should Teachers Teach Math as a Language?​

EduKitchen believes that the way we see math may help in whether we feel capable in understanding the concepts. Math contains it’s own set of “vocabulary” and “symbols” and therefore, why can’t we use math in the same way as – say for example – we use English?

math as a language

In order to explain what we see we use math vocabulary through the medium of  English language. 

The Benefits To Viewing Math as a Language

If students were given the opportunity to see that when we use math vocabulary in writing the steps to a math solution, it is like writing an outline of an “English” paragraph, they may find the following benefits: 

Here now is our list of the five benefits to viewing math as a language.

I. Enhances Communication

When teachers and  students continually make use of the math vocabulary in explaining answers, it may make communication of topics easier to understand between them.  It may also make it easier for students to explain their answers to the teacher or others students when they are comfortable using the math vocabulary. 

improve math communication

Therefore, we teachers get students into the habit of answering or explaining math concepts, communication will be easier for all! When it becomes easier to explain concepts, this builds confidence and enthusiasm in both teachers and students. 

II. Improves Vocabulary

In explaining concepts in math, previous knowledge of vocabulary allows for teachers and  students to gain understanding of new and related vocabulary in more complex concepts in math.

word choice is key to reduce anxiety

III. Simplifies Knowledge of Complex Math Concepts

Improving math vocabulary not only allows for better communication of concepts in math, it also makes learning more complex math concepts easier. Complex math concepts build on previous knowledge, and therefore when students are comfortable communicating previous knowledge, the transition to more complex knowledge becomes easier to understand.

improve math knowledge

IV. Strengthens Problem Solving Skills

In understanding how to approach math word problems, connections to language need to be met. 

build math problem solving skills

 When attempting to answer math problems written through words, we must translate written words into math vocabulary. In being able to do so, will make it easier in following the important steps to problem solving in math . 

V. Recognizes Math is a Universal Language

When students become comfortable using math vocabulary and learning to speak math language. it makes it easier to connect with international students when it comes to math. 

Students make speak different languages outside the math classroom, but when they switch to understanding math, it may connect students from different backgrounds. math, when seen as a “universal” language, brings students from around the world together in shared knowledge.

math as a language inforgraphic

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Final Thoughts

The five benefits to viewing maths as a language mentioned in this article are really meant to show that math is not something to be afraid of. Because the truth of the matter is that math can make people feel ashamed and embarrassed about how they think if they don’t understand it. 

When we allow students to take their own unique approaches to communicating what they do or don’t understand when it comes to math, then their emotions towards the subject may change for the better.

Share Your Thoughts

Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts on this article and our suggestions for recognizing Math as a very different but special kind of language we can all learn!

Let us know if you agree or disagree with the way we believe math should be presented to students. 

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