Supporting Clear and Concise Mathematics Language: Instead of That, Say This

Elizabeth M. Hughes, Sarah R. Powell, Elizabeth A. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Juan, a child with a mathematics disability, is learning about addition and subtraction of fractions. Juan’s special education teacher, Mrs. Miller, has tried to simplify language about fractions to make fractions easier for Juan. During instruction, she refers to the “top number” and “bottom number.” At the end of chapter test, Juan reads the problem: “What’s the least common denominator of ½ and 2/5?” Juan answers, “1.” Upon returning his test, Mrs. Miller asks Juan how he arrived at his answer, and learns that because he didn’t know what denominator meant, he used the word least to choose the number that was “least.” Mrs. Miller explains that denominator is the formal term for the “bottom number.” Juan exclaims, “I know how to find the least common bottom number!” Mrs. Miller did not intend to make mathematics confusing for Juan; she tried to make mathematics easier. But, in simplifying her language without connecting this informal language to formal mathematics language, she did Juan a disservice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-17
Number of pages11
JournalTeaching Exceptional Children
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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