The Final Pieces to OG Math Strategies–How Math and Language are Strongly Connected


Talking About Math Language.

Here’s what we’ve all been waiting for: the final four of our ten techniques for helping the struggling math students, O-G style. You can read about techniques 1 through 6 in our previous blog posts

7.  Help them to talk the talk, as they walk the walk. The difficulties that students have with the language of mathematics are the same as their difficulties in learning the English language: vocabulary terms, syntax, semantics and discourse features are difficult. (In fact, don’t we all have to stop, sometimes, and think again about which number is the called the divisor and which one is the dividend?)  Drawings, cue cards and diagrams are useful in much the same way as pictures are sometimes used to reinforce letter sounds and key words in O-G. Directions should be given clearly; key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually. Let’s say that again. Key vocabulary must be repeated often and reinforced continually.  In other words, key vocabulary must be repeated often and … you get the idea.

8.  Knowing the language, not just the words.  There’s a story about a tourist who was anxious to show off his newly found fluency in German, when he ordered coffee at a Berlin restaurant.  As the waiter brought his order, he said, confidently, “Danke Schoen” (Thank You) to which the waiter replied, “Bitte.” (You’re welcome), and the tourist said, “No, it’s not bitter at all.” Likewise, the instructor must directly teach the real world use of new vocabulary. Connect new words to known with information that is interesting and generates “rich connections” (Moore, National Geographic). The technical terms related to math concepts such as numerator, denominator, quotient, multiples and factors must be practiced repeatedly in a multisensory manner on word cards, tactile surfaces, and reference charts. It isn’t enough to know the words; students must have the concrete VAKT experience that makes the concepts lively and memorable.

9. Colour me confident. The use of a colour code or visual cueing is another effective way of focusing attention and sequencing steps in place value. For example, a separate colour may be designated for the ones, tens, and hundreds columns. It helps with recall of information and identifies starting and stopping points when punctuation is highlighted in colour within word problems. Another colour highlighter may be used for important key words thus providing cues to an appropriate response. Such strategies increase the student’s ability to be independent. (Thornton, Bley, 2005; Kramer, 1983)

10. When the going gets tough, the tough get all of the tools out of their toolbox … or something like that. Moving from the simple to the complex is another key O-G teaching concept. There is more than one way to gradually add bits of new information when working through math equations. Teach alternate strategies to students through the use of manipulatives and the drawing step: drawing a picture, sketching a sequence, looking for a pattern, making predictions (Foss, 1999), and making a simpler or more authentic problem, trial and error, acting it out, recording results on a table or chart. These are strategies that enrich and empower students mathematically as they bridge over to traditional algorithms and generalizations.”