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The Importance of Developing Mathematical Vocabulary

Maths vocabulary is an integral part of every lesson and is crucial for communicating mathematically. Through using mathematical talk to explain their ideas, thinking or reasoning it will become evident whether children have fully grasped concepts. This allows staff to assess what the children are learning and understanding and provides opportunity to identify and address any areas of misconception the children may have or may be developing. Children are offered a range of opportunities in paired, group or whole class situations to mathematically verbalise their thinking, what they are doing and why. In some circumstances, this will be through using stem sentences and in other situations through individual verbalisation. Verbalising their thoughts, understanding and reasoning allows children to explain and justify their thinking providing an opportunity to express ideas before undertaking written work. Maths talk allows children to evaluate their own learning through supporting their peers, challenging others ideas and justifying their reasoning. It also provides a safe environment for them in which to ask questions to clarify thoughts or further their understanding. Whilst learning new vocabulary is important, it is fundamentally the understanding and use of this to communicate their mathematical thinking accurately which is essential. The effective use of mathematical language when explaining their reasoning and proving a point will allow children to demonstrate their mastery of it.

New vocabulary is planned, introduced, taught and highlighted to the children when relevant to a topic. Key vocabulary will also be displayed on anchor charts, Power points, working walls etc. The repetitive use of language is especially useful in supporting children to build confidence in communicating their thoughts. The regular use of stem sentences allows the children to continually rehearse use of new vocabulary and consolidate old vocabulary. Seeing vocabulary written down and practising using this in their written work allows them to fully embed and demonstrate their understanding.

Acquiring new mathematical vocabulary can be challenging as some Mathematical vocabulary can have alternative meanings within everyday language and therefore staff will talk through this and explain the mathematical concepts to the children.  To help children avoid developing misconceptions staff will ensure they use the correct terminology and precise vocabulary.  Definitions given will be complete and concise and supporting staff will be briefed to ensure they use the specific vocabulary and definitions too.

There is an expectation that the children will use taught vocabulary regularly through stem sentences and through their discussions, explanations, reasoning and justifications. Allowing children to practise vocabulary gives them the opportunity to understand how it links to what they know already. The classroom provides a safe environment for them to practise using it, or learn from their misuse of it, to help them fully embed it accurately. In some situations, planning may introduce new vocabulary to get the children used to hearing it to develop familiarity and understanding for future topics or years.

This mathematical vocabulary document shows the progression in vocabulary from Reception to Year 6. As well as having key new vocabulary that needs to be taught each year, vocabulary from previous years will also be used and consolidated. This document splits vocabulary into year groups, although vocabulary may be introduced in earlier years if appropriate. This is not an exhaustive list and other mathematical vocabulary may also be the used when necessary to explain a key concept.