I find that kids have a tough time translating algebraic expressions to English and vice versa. Am I alone?

Yeah, didn't think so.

One of the things that I have been trying to focus on this year is to convey to students the universality of the things they are learning. For example, cause/effect in language arts becomes input/output in math. Conflict resolution is the same as problem solving. Language arts has expressions and sentences, so does math. Scientific method can compare to making a conjecture in geometry, testing it out and then using inductive logic to arrive at a conclusion (read: rule).

So what happens when you tell them to translate: the product of 3 and the sum of x and 2?

You get: 3x+2, right?

Not quite.

Well I figured we needed to develop a mashup of English and Mathanese; Mathglish, if you will. Here is what we came up with:

English to Mathanese:

[caption id="attachment_458" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="This should read: The product of 2 and the sum of the product of 4 and x and 3. "][/caption]

Mathanese to English:

The key this time was to allow the mashup. I live in a rural area where the Spanish speaking population is very large. Many of my kids speak and understand Spanglish. I have never done it this way before and the kids nailed it.

How do you do it?

**Update:**Just did a quick check for understanding 2nd period and 26/28 kids circled the bases.

## 6 comments:

Umm...I don't do a very good job of this. Guilty as charged. Motivated by your work, David. Thanks for sharing.

I wonder if you could start a "wiktionary" of math for the class including vocab words as well as translations like "= means 'is'" (then include an example and maybe a "word origin" of where that sign comes from if you want kids to do research about it). Could be a tech/online wiki or a binder you keep in the classroom depending on your school's tech level.

@Matt

I have never done a good job of it either. For some reason, the diagram came to me mid lesson yesterday. I am wondering if it will prove beneficial later.

@Dave

Is this what you had in mind?

Algebra: http://bit.ly/7CY6aT

Geometry: http://bit.ly/6kWG2h

Theorems: http://bit.ly/5FRgXZ

Reminds me of teaching percents in middle school. Spent a lot of time showing student that they can substitute an equal sign where they see the word 'is', and a multiplication symbol where they see the word 'of'... it really is learning a new language, but do we ever explain it to the kids that way?

Love the diagrams!

Hi Carol

I have always been a fan of teaching percentages by translating directly. I never go into doing the proportions (is:of::p:100). It has always been a matter of

_________ is ________% of ___________ which translates nicely into an equation. I have used the term "mathanese" for years now, but the diagrams are new.

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