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Common Core Standards: Math Vocabulary Word Wall


Photo by misskprimary/flickr

by Elizabeth Supan, Monthly Columnist

The new buzz words around education are “Common Core”. Most states have adopted the new Common Core State Standards, so now what? That has been the focus of many planning sessions with teachers in my building. How do we address Common Core standards while still teaching our current state standards that will be tested this school year? How do you transition to the Common Core?

I am only teaching math this year, so I focused on the new Common Core Math standards. One of the first things that my team did to transition was to look at our current math state standards and check off which standards are covered with the new Common Core. What we found when looking at the two documents side by side is that most standards overlap. However, there is a stronger emphasis on fractions with the new Common Core. We will need to be looking at adding to our curriculum when it is time to work on fractions.

After deciding on gaps that needed to be filled, we turned to math vocabulary. When you walk into elementary classrooms, you are welcomed with literacy rich rooms. It is crucial that classrooms become numeracy rich as well. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a math word wall. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of room, but it should be organized.

A language word wall is usually organized alphabetically. For language purposes, that makes complete sense. So, how do you organize a math word wall? One of the easiest ways to organize your math word wall is to separate each of the Common Core domains. There are five domains:

  1. Operations and Algebraic Thinking
  2. Number and Operations in Base Ten
  3. Number and Operations- Fractions
  4. Measurement and Data
  5. Geometry

When a word is added to the word wall, it will primarily fall under one of the five domains. Students need to be made aware of these domains as you add words to the wall. Keeping them visually organized this way will help students remember them easier. Words could also be accompanied with a picture for even more of a visual reminder.

Often language word walls use vocabulary words from stories that are being read in the classroom. Sometimes, they are words that need to be posted for writing assistance. How do you choose the words for the math word wall? The easiest way to add words to the wall is at the beginning of a unit of study. However, don’t add too many at one time, or it may be too overwhelming. Even if the unit has twenty words, add ten the first week and ten more the next week.

Math word walls can be used in many ways. For example, math word walls can be visual reminders of the math content or they can be used with math journal writing. Using the Common Core domains to organize your math word walls can help make them visually appealing and user-friendly. Word walls will encourage students to use the math language in the Common Core standards. Using this language daily will help students master the content in the new Common Core standards. Mastering the content is any teacher’s ultimate goal.


About the Author

Elizabeth Supan is an elementary school teacher in South Carolina with 18 years experience.  Currently she is a 4th grade math teacher.  She uses small group math instruction to meet the needs of her diverse learners.  You can read more about her teaching on her blog Fun in Room 4B.   Aside from teaching, Elizabeth enjoys crafting, completing DIY projects and spending time with her husband and children.

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Heather aka HoJo
Heather aka HoJo

Great post! I push math pretty hard in my 6th grade room, but the overall "feel" of the room is definitely literacy. I need to find the space and get this started right away!


Great idea to keep the domains up there. So often they get lost in the push to get the content...the kids don't even know where it is coming from! Thanks for sharing the strategies. Stephanie