Mathematics Language Practices in Early Childhood Classrooms

Minnah Jirani Sabree, Fordham University


Mathematics vocabulary knowledge is a crucial component of students’ success in the understanding, use, and communication of mathematics. Mathematics vocabulary can be difficult to learn as it consists of both technical terminology as well as words from everyday language that have different meanings within the domain of mathematics. Beginning such instruction in the primary grades would support students’ conceptual understanding and communication of mathematics throughout their years of schooling (Hassinger-Das, Jordan, & Dyson, 2015; Hong, 1999). The current state of mathematics vocabulary instruction in schools is largely unknown. This purpose of this observational study was to ascertain the extent to which mathematics vocabulary instruction occurred in the primary grades and the instructional practices teachers utilized during such instruction. Data were collected through the use of questionnaires, classroom observations, and interviews. The findings of the study revealed that teachers employed three categories of instructional practices to teach mathematics vocabulary to primary grade children: explanations, visuals, and demonstrations. During some episodes of mathematics vocabulary instruction, teachers utilized two or more practices. Findings also indicated that teachers taught some vocabulary words multiple times. Examination of the teachers’ views on why they taught mathematics vocabulary showed that the teachers believed that mathematics vocabulary was essential to students’ mathematics learning and that both teachers and students should use mathematics vocabulary during lessons. Implications for classroom instruction and teacher education are also discussed.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Early childhood education|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Sabree, Minnah Jirani, "Mathematics Language Practices in Early Childhood Classrooms" (2019). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI22582815.