Should you use a math dictionary?

When it comes to what is fashionable in homeschooling, these days lap books, notebooking, lapbooking, whatever term you use, are definitely "in". I haven't seen much anything for math, though. And no, I haven't made any lapbooks either! But I do have an idea for one:

Let your child/student make their own math dictionary! Just make a new page in it every time there is a new concept or term to study. The student can write the term, write an explanation, an example calculation, or draw a picture of it − or all of those.

Making such a math vocabulary book shouldn't take lots of time, because you don't usually encounter new words every single lesson in a typical math curriculum. The rest of the time the book can act as a reference or as a review medium.

There is one exception though, and that is GEOMETRY. In geometry, just about all the time you have new terms to learn. In fact, a big part of the geometry in elementary grades is simply learning the meaning of words such as parallel, perpendicular, trapezoid, vertical angles, symmetry, diameter, radius, circumference, and so on.

I know; I've written a geometry book. In it, I encourage kids to make such a geometry notebook for themselves.

There also exist very nice already written math dictionaries:

1) Online dictionaries.

The two mentioned below complement each other, and are free!

Visual Mathematics Dictionary - includes definitions of terms, often with pictures, and links to related terms, which I think is a very nice feature.

A Maths Dictionary For Kids 2007 - this one explains the term and often has some kind of interactive activitiy you can do right on the site, such as converting Celsius to Fahrenheit, or draw triangles, color or click things.

2) Printed dictionaries

Printed ones can make a nice reference for your home library.

Math Dictionary for Kids: The Essential Guide to Math Terms, Strategies, and Tables

This handbook includes illustrated, concise explanations of the most common terms used in general math classes. The 400 illustrated definitions and examples are categorized by subjects that include ... measurement; algebra; geometry; fractions and decimals; statistics and probability; and problem solving. Each term has a concise definition and an example or illustration.

Math Dictionary: The Easy, Simple, Fun Guide to Help Math Phobics Become Math Lovers

An A to Z list of some of the most common terms you'll hear in a math classroom.

The terms cover general arithmetic, geometry, algebra, graphing, probability, statistics, and much more. Advanced mathematical terms such as those used in calculus are not covered. Each definition is spelled out in plain terms, often with simple diagrams to illustrate, eliminating any confusion.

Visual Math Dictionary

This reference has over 600 definitions and additional resources including tables, rules and symbols. Math terms are explained simply and visually with ample examples in two colors and clear, concise wording. Visual descriptions of many important concepts abound, including rules for finding area and volume, data representation, financial math, rational numbers equivalents, factors, figurative numbers, the international system, transformations, prime and composite numbers and much more.


mathmom said…
Even outside of Geometry, I find there is a lot of vocabulary for kids to master. Once they start doing word problems (especially contest problems) they need to be comfortable with terms like sum, product, prime, composite, integer, whole number, multiple, divisor, factor, divisible, improper fraction, mixed number, probability, mean, median, etc....

I'm not sure about a math "dictionary" but I do have my students create a math "glossary" which they add to whenever they come upon an unfamiliar term (or a familiar term they can't remember the precise meaning of) in the course of their problem solving work.

Thanks for the pointers to those math dictionaries. It's not as fancy, but I'll add a pointer to the MOEMS document What Every Young Mathlete Should Know which includes a lot of "contest vocabulary"
Annette said…
Have to say, like the idea. :)
Anonymous said…
I think having a actual math dictionary is valuable. In addition to being a refernce for topics covered in regular schooling, it provides a reference the student can use to explore on his or her own. Kids (and parents) often stop at interesting words or pictures while looking for someting else or may even browse just for fun.

When I was in elementary school every child was required to have a dictionary. It now seems silly we were not also required to have a math dictionary at some point.
Anonymous said…
hi, i am from turkey. My name is Can. i am mathematician and math teacher, working in university on math teaching.

i am writing 2 programmes

math dictionary and math formulas dictionary.

these programmas will be turkish and english. i am for news :)

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