# Language and Writing

## Practicing Precision: Lessons from Mathematical Language and Writing

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## CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

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Part I: Drill and Basic skill exercises
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- 1) Use flash cards to get the class to respond individually or as a group to the following types of exercises. (A) Multiplication facts (week one). (B) Percent to decimal equivalents (week two). (C) Percent to fraction equivalents (week three). (D) Area, measure, volume conversion in either the English or metric system (week four). (E) Basic concepts, vocabulary words (week five).
- 2) Write the informational content with random missing item on the board; have students supply missing items verbally or in writing. To illustrate, an example for category (B) above would be
- 1% = .01
- 2% = .02
- 3% =
- 4.5% = .045
- 5.5% =
- 6% = .06
- % = .07
- 3) Instruct the students to draw, for example, their own multiplication master table (week one) in a special reference section of their notebook.

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Part Two: Reading aloud and taking notes.
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Reading aloud material can be from several sources. One good and universally available source is all the special career capsule or special topics sections of your student’s text book material for the year’s course. Difficulty of material and content is not uniform in these exercises. One way they can be made useful as comprehensive exercises is by using the CLOZE format: copy the passage eliminating every tenth word. A criterion for readability of a text, incidentally, is its ability to hold together contextually in this exercise. Present the passage to students and have them supply the missing words (week one). Weeks two and three can be spent reading similar passages from the textbook or recreational mathematics material, textbooks, etc. and copying notes and vocabulary word meanings to be memorized. An excellent resource for one to two page treatises on special topics is the Book of Numbers. The entries in this book have brief (two pages) statements on interesting topics like makeup habits around the world, alcohol consumption, the certainty of a third world war and world wide opinion on these topics arranged in a data table.

Week four techniques for tackling word problems can be begun here. Volumes on the methodology of problem solving have been written. For low level or average students the direct approach is the best. Issue the student a page of word problems. (1) Read a problem together as a class. (2) Underline or circle the part of the problem that asks the question (identification). (3) Write down what has been asked. (4) Write down given facts (data).

In week five issue a page of word problems and have the students do the following: (1) Identify the question asked (often just involving finding the question mark and adjacent words) (2) Write the data given. (3) Choose the correct function (look for clue words, deduct means, subtract, increase by mean, add, etc.). (4) Write an equation. (5) Solve the equation. (6) Check your answer for reasonableness.

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Part III: Small Recreational Puzzles and Games
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These are great for teaching students alternative ways of thinking, creativity, and competitiveness. Dangers are the temptation to overuse them or use them at random. The math learning atmosphere should be one of order, structure, and logic; games should be presented in a straightforward fashion, not when the class is about to break down in maximum disorder.

Some good examples of games to play are: (1) Blackboard races (best for small groups of five to 10). Students stand at the blackboard and compete in calculating simple word problems presented verbally by the teacher. Knowing your students is important here. This is good for increasing listening skills and comprehension and the competition increases the individual’s confidence. Usually each student has his own special talent (time problems, or making change, etc.), and some sensitivity in presenting the everyone feel like a winner at something. (2) The function game is well known. Pairs of students can play or it can be teacher versus class. The principle of the game is identifying the functional relationship between ordered pairs of numbers:

(figure available in print form)

(3) Word search puzzles can be made up for the vocabulary words currently under study. Alphabet letters are arranged two dimensionally on a page with the words hidden. Words of correct spelling must be circled. (4) Cross number puzzles are puzzles using mutually satisfying numbers instead of words for across and down junctions. (5) The geometric and spatial relationship puzzles. For example, connect the nine dots using only four consecutive lines without raising pencil from paper.