Add Some Creativity: Dress Up as Math Vocabulary Words

By: Mary Kienstra on: February 18, 2014  in: dress-up;, math; engagement; vocabulary

Do your students struggle to learn all the vocabulary words in math class?  

Try pushing them outside of their comfort zone.  Try something new and different to engage your students in learning math vocabulary words.  

Math vocabulary is extremely important in learning many concepts, especially in elementary school geometry.  There are so many words to understand in order to grasp the concepts.  Trapezoid, rhombus, acute, obtuse, reflex, parallel, perpendicular… the list goes on and on. These are new words with few connections to real life situations to a third grader.  This part of math instruction resembles literacy when it comes to learning new vocabulary.

As my students learn geometry vocabulary, they make their own glossary with definitions for these new math words.  They write ABC books to show their understanding with definitions and pictures.  But the most engaging and fun way to learn these words – is to dress up!

Each student chooses a word from a “hat” so that all the words are represented.  On the assigned day, they come to class dressed up in a way that not only shows their understanding, but also to teaches their classmates their word.  I stress that they  DO NOT need to buy anything for this assignment, but use their creativity to show us their word.  The results are typically outstanding.  

In the past few years, we’ve had a hat designed as a reflex angle, pizza drawn on a T shirt to show an acute angle, a party hat as a cone, a boy wearing butterfly wings for symmetry, and many more.  (I don’t post pictures of students or I’d show them here.)

Let your imagination go and encourage your students.  You’ll be surprised by the ideas they have and the ways they help each other learn all of these vocabulary words.  These are the kinds of activities they remember.  Give it a try! 

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