This post originally appears on the blog Mrs. E. Teaches Math.
Math vocabulary can be a struggle for students, but with adequate practice, it doesn’t have to be. I love using activities and games to help students reinforce their vocabulary. The BEST times to review are before a unit test, before end of year state testing, and anytime students seem to need the extra help!
Of course, I recommend actually USING academic vocabulary yourself as often as possible. Saying “Check the denominators!” will be more academically beneficial than “Check the bottom numbers!”. If your students struggle with learning vocabulary and/or are English Language Learners, your best bet is to say something like, “Remember to check the denominators, the numbers on the bottom!” while also pointing at the denominators. Actually using the correct mathematical vocabulary in context is a PERFECT natural review.
I’m sharing my favorite ways to practice math vocabulary with your students. Choose your favorite review activities to try with your students!
Great Ways to Review Math Vocabulary
Don’t Say It!
Don’t Say It! is a fun vocabulary game for students to practice vocabulary. In this game, students are given a vocabulary word and they give clues so that their teammates can correctly guess the vocabulary word. The catch? There are four additional words on each card that they CANNOT say. Students have to be creative and have a good knowledge of the vocabulary to be successful. I have a set of cards in my TpT store for geometry, but you could also make your own! You could play this at the end of the school year to review for final exams, but it would also be fun to use a few cards at a time as a warmup throughout the school year.
Read: Bellwork Keeps Me Sane
Ahhh, Silent Ball… This is a game that I totally stole borrowed from a friend who teaches World History. Have your class stand in a circle and get some kind of Koosh ball. The class must be silent. You say a vocabulary word and toss the ball to a student. If they answer correctly, they stay in. If they answer incorrectly or miss catching the ball, they are “out”. When you say the next word, the student will throw the ball to another student. The fun part is that they try to throw the ball to someone who isn’t watching (so they can get them “out”). Also, if a student speaks, they are “out”. This game is a fun way to use a few minutes at the end of class so that kids don’t line up at the door. You can make up all sorts of silly rules to keep the game interesting. I like to give a reward to the last student standing, like removing one or two problems from their homework assignment.
I Have, Who Has
I Have, Who Has is a fun game that can be used as a warmup or review game. You can play this game as a whole class or in small groups too! Every student gets one or more cards. Then, the teacher decides which card goes first (it doesn’t matter). Students will have to determine the next card in the sequence. Whichever student has the correct answer on their card will read it. The cards form a loop, so it doesn’t matter which student begins. If you shuffle and re-distribute the cards, you can play this multiple times with the same deck! The photo shows a deck for statistics.
Crossword puzzles are a quick and easy way for students to practice vocabulary. They could be added to a homework assignment or given in class on a sub day. Crossword puzzles are PERFECT for emergency sub plans because they keep students doing something productive, but are easy to keep in a folder for emergencies. There are various crossword puzzle makers online or you can search for one on TpT.
Would You Rather?
This fun game is a way for students to determine if they are an athlete or a mathlete? They answer lots of “would you rather” type questions and match vocabulary words.
If you’re practicing vocabulary that describes different types of things, then card sorts are an awesome way for students to practice. For instance, if you’re practicing triangle vocabulary, students can sort triangles into ‘acute’, ‘obtuse’, and ‘right’. You can even use them in interactive notebooks for students to practice sorting over and over. Also, card sorts can be used as a memory game. Check out this card sort about LCM and GCF or this one about Sine, Cosine, and Tangent.
Fly Swatter Games
I was first introduced to fly swatter games by a friend who taught Spanish. She would write vocabulary words on the board and have two students stand at the back of the room with fly swatters. She would then give the definition or describe the word, and they would race to the board. The first one to hit the correct word earned their team a point. This would be so much fun to play with vocabulary words in math class, too! If running across the room is a little much for your students, you could make them sit on the floor facing away from the board. Then, they have to jump up and turn around before they answer.
Card games are fun for students to play in small groups. This game, Old Math Guy, is similar to Old Maid. In order for students to make a match, they must match the word to the definition. You could also use cards to play Go Fish with the words and their definitions.
Word walls are a great reference for students. However, they can also be a fun way for students to review! You could challenge them to write a story or poem and use the word wall and give them a certain number of words.
Ask students to write a layman’s translation in their own words of the vocabulary words. You can even have students write them geared to a specific audience (elementary school kids, their grandma, etc). This will help assess their ability to comprehend the vocabulary. If you have a few minutes at the end of class, this is a great way to not waste that time. Also, I love this idea for vocabulary in an interactive notebook!
Fix the Lie
At the end of the lesson, give students a list of the vocabulary words and definitions, but make a serious error in each definition. Then, in small groups (or partners) have students determine why each definition is incorrect and change the definition to make it correct. This would also make AWESOME test questions for honors students.
Have you played Kahoot? I love it! Basically, it’s a free game online where your class can play against each other. There is even a stockpile online with free games other people have made. If you make your own, you can add funny distractor answers (because the questions are multiple choice). My students have always liked playing this game.
Read: How to Create a Kahoot!
Karrie from Mrs. E Teaches Math is a high school math teacher in Texas. She loves helping teachers find relevant and engaging ways to teach. Karrie has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a graduate degree in Statistics. You can find her blog at mrseteachesmath.com.