Students in my speech room are busy working on their math language skills. In a recent post I told you my reasons SLPs should collaborate with math teachers. This year I wanted to change my perspective and look at math through a language lens. And I am not talking about calculations–believe me my eyes glaze over when I hear numbers (maybe that’s why my Macy’s balance is so high). I’m referring to the language area where we overlap with math concepts, especially those dealing with quantity and associations.
Take the concept of SAME. This is one that we all address. Shifting our lens to math also shifts the concept: SAME as defined by attributes to SAME defined by quantity (amount, number). Recently I began working with a student with significant language-based learning disabilities on the math concept SAME. After introducing the concept, I posed this question:
My student’s response: “A notebook.”
After my initial internal confusion, I realized that he had answered based on the skills we’ve been practicing together. He answered with a category association–after all, we work regularly on categories and he supplied an office product response. No surprise he is also supplying these types of responses during math class!
In math class, students are expected to explain their mathematical thinking both orally and in writing—yikes! Going back to the example of SAME: although most of my students can complete the task pictured below, they have difficulty explaining what they did to come to their answer. For example, I looked at how many marbles in the first jar and saw there were less than the amount of marbles in the second jar.
Here’s another example of how my students have difficulty with math language. The examples are from my math packet in my TpT store. Most of my students were able to complete the Most/Least worksheet, but the challenge was explaining their answer. The ability to think about their thinking involves not only language but metacognition skills.
Many of my students had more difficulty with this next task (As Many), probably because the word problem contains much more language. As we worked through the linguistic concepts, I had students take note of the steps we were using to solve the problem such as “First I counted the number of pies each person sold. Then I added two more pies under Zoe. I recounted Zoe’s pie total; it was four total. Finally I looked to see who else had as many pies as Zoe. I was looking for four pies. I saw that Camila had as many pies as Zoe.”
Math language skills are where SLPs are especially valuable; helping children to
explain their thinking in a sequential manner will help them be
successful in math and other academic areas. Do you work on math concepts and/or collaborate with math teachers to help your students succeed in that academic area?