Howard Miller
Language, Grammar and Vocabulary, Mathematics
Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division
Mathematics, Vocabulary
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
Media Formats:

Reading Specialized Texts: The Vocabulary of Mathematics


This module is aimed at college freshmen, although it could be used with slightly older or slightly younger students.  Its purpose is to instruct students on the process of engaging with the kinds of text they are likely to encounter in their first year in college.  Included are an introduction that establishes a set of "rules" for developing a sense of context for understanding specialized vocabulary and a set of exercises aimed at reinforcing the identified "rules." 


See attached module and answer key.  Practice questions are in TASKS area.  

The Vocabulary of Mathematics - Practice Exercises

There are three sets of exercises that direct students to gain an understanding of the importance of context in building vocabulary in specialized areas -- in this case, mathematics.  An answer key is provided in the RESOURCE area.  You may wish to assign one or more of these exercises at a time.  They can be used with a "flipped classroom" model or as in-person practice material.  A full discussion following the exercises is advised.  

Reading Specialized Texts:  The Vocabulary of Math


Practice Exercise 1

For each of these words, explain the meaning in a non-math context and in a math context. 


A.    Divide – (non-math context)

      Divide – (math context)


B.    Prime – (non-math context)

      Prime – (math context)


C.  Positive – (non-math context)

      Positive – (math context)


D.  Multiply (non-math context)

      Multiply (math context)


E.  Integral (non-math context)

     Integral (math-context)



Practice Exercise 2

For each of these words, explain its meaning in a math context.  Use the designated resource to come up with your answer.  

A.  Fraction (guess)—

B.  Integer (dictionary)—

C.  Factor (internet)--

D. Infinity (math textbook)—

E. Binary Number System (ask someone)—


Practice Exercise 3

1.  Write a paragraph about the words googol and googolplex, what they represent mathematically, and why they are relevant.

2.  Write a paragraph explaining how you gathered the information that allowed you to write the first paragraph.