Teacher talk in Mathematics
Specialised vocabulary in secondary school/Middle School
The section of teacher talk in Mathematics in Figure 5.3 is taken from a study in an international school in Germany. The teacher in this segment is an English as a first language speaker from the United States of America. The students are in Grade 6, which is their first year of high school and are between 11 and 12 years old. In Figure 5.3, the words in bold are items which could be identified as technical in this text, such as triangles (see the top ten list in Table 5.3 from Greene’s Middle School Mathematics Vocabulary List).
Note the occurrence of multi-word units, such as four-sided polygon, and interior angle sum in Figure 5.3, as well as examples of classroom management by the teacher, and references to earlier work as a class on the concept of quadrilaterals. In the example, the word number is highlighted in the text because it is clear that the teacher is not talking about just any number. Instead, she is referring to numbers in relation to quadrilaterals. Therefore, in this example, number is potentially a specialised item of vocabulary. This sample of text contains more than one technical word per line. This, in turn, suggests that teacher talk is also a potential source of technical vocabulary for learners. The sample certainly provides evidence of how the teacher works to make sure that the students can relate language to concepts, for example, in referring to possible four-sided polygons in everyday contexts, such as a kite.