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Re: Math dictionaries - for ESL students --ALL STUDENTS

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Sat, 7 Oct 2000 09:10:22 -0400

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 ```Gary Probst wrote: As a "reading teacher who teachers math," a term the famous Dr. Bittinger called me, mathematics vocabulary needs to be taught to all of the students. Many math textbooks do not have good definitions of math terms. Some math textbooks do not have definitions of any new math terms. ( I embarrassed Dr. Bittinger at a meeting several years ago by telling him he did not have any definitions in his textbooks. The next edition had some definitions, however I was not given any credit.) To my knowledge only Beaver's mathematics textbook has the terms that will be introduced in the chapter listed similar to business and social science textbooks. What most developmental mathematics faculty do not realize is that a course in developmental mathematics, not algebra, has approximately 300 NEW TERMS introduced. Different dictionaries give different or poor definitions of the same math term. For example, the term numerator is defined as "1. a person or thing that numbers 2. Math, the term above or to the left of the line in a fraction (6 is the numerator of 6/7)." This definition comes from WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD COLLEGE DICTIONARY, THIRD EDITION, 1997. Bittinger's current textbook which I use states, "This way of writing number names is called fractional notation. The top number is called the numerator and the bottom number is called the denominator." The student is then given practice problems to count the number of squares shaded in a bar. From these examples the student is expected develop his or her own definition of numerator and denominator. The definition of these two terms is not obvious to someone who is just learning fractions. One important reading/learning skill required of a math student is developing from an example a definition of a term. While some people might call this discovery learning, a some point a definition needs to be given. You have identified, in my opinion, why students cannot or have trouble learning math. This trouble learning math was identified by a person, whose degree is in Russian history, to write a book on math anxiety. (I asked her what her degree was in at a presentation she made years ago.) This book is widely quoted today. I had much anxiety several years ago when I took a computer networking class with freshman college students. The textbook used had at least five terms on every page I did not know. The other students must have all been nerds because they seemed to know the definition of these terms. This caused me to develop computer networking anxiety. A workshop in computer networking anxiety would not help me overcome my learning problem in this computer networking class. What I needed was a prerequisite vocabulary course in computer networking terms or a textbook that had a definintion of the terms used in the textbook. What I would suggest is having the students develop their own mathematics dictionary. They would have to be taught how to develop a definition from a explanation or a example of a math term. This would be a big project. You have identified the reason why students have trouble learning math. MaryLiz Pierce wrote: > Here's hoping you can help with a problem that seems to be happening more and > more often in my classes -- particularly in the lower level ones. > We are having students with limited English skills enter these classes. > Often they understand the concepts but not the language. Other students do > things slightly differently and at present all we can do is allow them to use > their own procedures unless they can't do it correctly and then teach them > ours -- even if it is just a minor problem. I'd like to have mathematical > dictionaries for these students, if they are available, or develop our own as > an ongoing project. I would also like to develop a database of different > notations and procedures. It could be as simple as the Cuban method of > writing down multiplication or something more complicated. (They start their > multiplication from the largest digit and move to the right with each > multiplier, rather than starting with the smallest and moving left.) Could > any of you help me get started? > > Thanks in advance. > > MaryLiz Pierce > GateWay Community College > Phoenix, AZ```