So, my student’s last Geometry unit test force a realization. Computational math classes, which my students have all had up until this point, generally are not focused on vocabulary.
I’ll give you an example:
Suppose a typical Algebra I teacher asks his or her students to solve 3x + 7 = 28. How would they do it?
Well, for the most part, they will probably add seven to both sides of the equal sign. Then, after dividing both sides of the equal sign by three, the answer would be x = 7.
Before this year, I would have been content to accept that as a “full-credit-answer.” My students would have never been expected to know that the reasons that those steps are effective. Namely, the subtraction and division properties of equality.
However, on this most recent unit test for Common Core Geometry, each of the six questions required written explanations. Written explanations require vocabulary. Sometimes a lot of it. And it needs to be used properly.
The first real hiccup in our version of the Common Core Geometry is that this math teacher is not used to having to facilitate the deep understanding of technical vocabulary. I’ve taught skills, procedures, and technical reading, but I’ve never required my students to need to know the vocab as well as they do now. Previous geometry courses that I’ve taught have still been so algebraic that if the students didn’t learn the vocab, they could still get by doing the crazy amount of algebra.
This year, the vocab has taken center stage… and the students aren’t the only ones needing to adjust.
Please add to the comments any tips or pointers you might have in helping develop deep and flexible understandings of math vocabulary.