Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

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  1. For starters, give students a few etymological clues on why noun names in definitions of math terms make sense, instead of merely having to memorize it by brute force.

    E.g., “commutative” of the “commutative property” of addition and multiplication. “-muta” refers to “mutation” and change. “Com-” (and “co-” and “con-“) means “together.” “Commuter,” as in “commuter” traffic, as in “changing together,” is an excellent comparative word. The commuters drive from home to work. At the end of the day, they turn around and return home in the opposite direction, just as 2 + 3 = 3 + 2, and 2 X 3 = 3 X 2.

    Same with terms like, e.g., “parabola” (“para” – “around” – + “bola” – “bolus” or “ball” or “mass”), describing the shape of the graph of the general equation ax^2 + bx + c = y.

    From the student’s perspective, the student must be willing to pay attention and do just a little intellectual “heavy lifting” for this to work. As Alexander the Great was told by his tutor, “There is no royal road to mathematics.” The student must be willing to lift a finger.

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