Background to the Study
Vocabulary knowledge is as essential to learning of mathematics as it is to learning how to read. In language arts, mathematical words conjure up graphic representations of the objects they label. But when it comes to abstract mathematical concepts, words describe activities or relationships that often lack a visual counterpart. Yet studies show that children grasp the idea of quantity, as well as other relational concepts, from a very early age (Dehaene, 2007).
Mathematics is one of the core subjects taught in contemporary human society. It is an indispensable discipline in various field such as science, Engineering, Technology, social sciences, Arts and others disciplines that are related. Many educators have considered it as an indispensable to the educated man or woman. As a result of its importance, it has been considered as a key subject in the school curriculum. Nevertheless, Mathematics is the language of science.
Mathematics by educational policy is made compulsory and it is among the core subjects that have to be passed before any certificate can be issued or awarded to anyone.
The relevance of Mathematics to the society cannot be over- emphasized. As mathematics is a tool in science, industry and commerce. It will enhance understanding of students who have interest in mathematics. It will help the student to correct certain ills of the society; one very important characteristic of child centered approaches is play away method or activities. Method which they emphasized in mathematics like other subject should be made practical where possible in the classroom.
Mathematical vocabulary refers to words that label mathematical concepts for example quotient, volume, vertex, dividend, and hexagon (Sanders, 2007). According to Miller (2003) students are likely to be handicapped in their effort to learn mathematics if they do not understand the vocabulary that is used in mathematics classrooms, textbooks and assessment tests. One of the obstacles that make mathematical vocabulary difficult to learn is lack of opportunity (Paul and Sinha, 2010). This is because much of the vocabulary used in mathematics classroom is rarely encountered in everyday life. In addition, mathematics teachers often neglect meaningful vocabulary instruction. Also, many terms have meanings in the realm of mathematics that differ from their meanings in everyday usage (Njoroge, 2003).
Without appropriate vocabulary instruction, students are likely to experience difficulties and interference in the learning of concepts for which they have background knowledge that appears unrelated to mathematics. Students need to know the meaning of mathematics vocabulary words-whether written or spoken-in order to understand and communicate mathematics ideas. According to Sanders (2007), terms, phrases, and symbols are essential in communicating mathematical ideas; and becoming fluent with them is vital for children’s mathematical learning.
Research reveals that the knowledge of mathematics vocabulary directly affects achievement in arithmetic, particularly problem-solving (Staley, 2005). Riordain and O’Donoghue (2009) indicated that vocabulary knowledge is strongly related to overall academic achievement in school. Although students may excel in computation, their ability to apply their mathematics skills will be hindered if they do not understand the vocabulary required to master content and able to apply in future situations. Thus teaching vocabulary in the mathematics content area is a critical element of effective instruction.
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