The Importance of Vocabulary

The World Is Maths

Glaring truism alert! Subject-specific vocabulary is extremely important. The right academic vocabulary turns a clumsy conversation into an elegant and precise one.

In mathematics we have the issue that certain words have a different meaning in common speech, take “roots” or “degree” for instance (degree has more than one meaning even in mathematics – the degree of a polynomial, degrees in a turn). We also have words that it is perfectly plausible to leave out of the curriculum, and that you will find many students never encounter (such as “commutative” or “subtrahend”). But how much better is it if teacher and student have a shared technical vocabulary, one which helps us to be mutually understood and to express ourselves unambiguously.

It can be tempting to avoid complex words with students, especially those who aren’t the highest-attaining, yet I’d argue that, in the pursuit of increasing attainment, all our students benefit…

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