Monthly Archives: March 2012

Algebra: A Reunion of Broken Parts, from Arabic al jebr


Although I know the importance of integrating all parts of literacy in math – I have just never been strong consistently implementing good strategies with vocabulary.  I despise the days of teachers “making” me copy the definitions out of the back of the book.  My, now retired, Curriculum Specialist was an amazing resource.  I wanted to share a couple of tools she introduced me to:

Frayer Model , a great tool, though, sometimes can be difficult with a few math terms.

LINCS – (outline of strategy) students sometimes get hung-up in Creating the LINCing picture…my thoughts are – why not draw an example of what it looks like?  The research using this tool is pretty strong.

Just the other day, I shared with a colleague how I need to make this a priority for professional growth.  I know improving vocabulary/literacy in my classroom will lead to greater student success.  I have Literacy Strategies for Improving Mathematics Instruction from ASCD on my reading list for the summer. (Any takers on a twitter book study?)

Tuesday morning, I ran across this tweet by @davidwees

Loved this => MT @jesslahey: Because math is hard for some of us.

I Scream! was about @jesslahey ‘s first day in Algebra I class.  Ok.  But as I read through, I was intrigued and had to go back to an earlier post  Quantifying the Unknown to get the full grasp of her experiences.  Basically @jesslahey teaches English, Latin and composition, writes for a New York Times blog and is a contributor to several newspapers and magazines.  Her talent is quickly evident – very enjoyable to read.  She first shares how she always encourages her students to  “be brave, diligent, and never back down from an intellectual challenge.”  She said it was time for her to put her money where her mouth is…and face her aversion to math!

I was short on time so only skimmed I Scream – but pulled it up later that day.  Amazing!  An English teacher facing her biggest fear…Math Class!!!  Quickly, the wheels in my brain were turning…she is writing from the viewpoint of many of my students.  Her approach was to connect what she was hearing/seeing to something she is very familiar with – etymology, the history/source/origin of a word.  She was making connections with the math vocabulary to roots of other words for which she knew the mearning.  Hmmm.

Frayer & LINCS are tools to help me to this.  But I’m thinking about really , delving into learning some of those Latin roots, myself.  By deepening my understanding of word roots and helping my students make some stronger connections – it could only be win-win! Right?

I’ve used the Frayer Model before, some of the LINCs diagrams – but by helping students understand the roots – this would also have a positive effect on their reading and possibly facing unknown vocabulary in future courses?  So, to my summer list, I plan to start with my content’s critical vocabulary and search for some quality resources to help me learn the etymology of my lists.

If you have vocabulary strategies, games or great resources – please share in the comments.

Lastly, I look forward to reading more of @jesslahey’s adventures in algebra class – simply because, she’s giving a voice to some of my students – I’ll be able to think about ways to address their anxieties, looking for ways to be a better teacher.

From an online etymology dictionary

algebra 1550s, from M.L. algebra, from Arabic al jebr “reunion of broken parts,” as in computation, used 9c. by Baghdad mathematician Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi as the title of his famous treatise on equations (“Kitab al-Jabr w’al-Muqabala” “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”), which also introduced Arabic numerals to the West. The accent shifted 17c. from second syllable to first. The word was used in English 15c.-16c. to mean “bone-setting,” probably from Arab medical men in Spain.

Literacy for Decision Making