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Math is a Foreign Language

I often describe math to students as a "foreign language." Many of the terms and words are used to describe specific details that bring about the uniqueness of a concept that is being depicted through numbers. "Know the words," is what I say and suggest to students and parents to have a dictionary ready to look up even the simplest of words like, 'and, or, of, difference.' These words give 'clues' to the students and suggest what operation to use to solve problems. My second statement is, "Know the rules." Math is logical, factual, truthful. The numbers can be trusted if the student follows the rules. The rules are in place to bring truth to the world around them through numbers. So, when learning the language of math remember two things: "Know the words" and "Know the rules" and the numbers will bring confidence to the students trying to understand their language of numbers.

Comments

I couldn't agree with you more. One other reason in addition to what you cited to know what the math words mean, is that oftentimes problems are cryptically stated. The language is verbose, and it is hard sometimes to understand what you are being asked. If you know the words, you can cut through the esoteric language used to describe situations.
Thank you for your insight, Ernest. I appreciate your comments and input on recognizing the language aspect of math.-JS
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