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Ever wonder why some students just seem to have a knack of excelling in math while others don’t? Why do some students score great marks in math without too much effort. Make the best of high school math tutor or e tutoring? Pretty simple. They understand the language of math.


As a high school math tutor, one of my main objectives is to familiarize my students with the language of math. Yes, it is a language. In fact, many English words and phrases can be directly translated into math symbols and operations. Learning this is like getting a math tutor free for good! Some  examples are:


  1. of = multiply
  2. percent = divide by 100
  3. ratio comparison = division
  4. difference = subtraction
  5. product = multiplication
  6. quotient = divide
  7. increased by, more than = addition

Watching young children learn has convinced me that the best way to pick up a language is by regular practice. If children spend enough time in a situation where they absolutely must learn a new language, they learn it really quick and effortlessly.

It’s the same with math. Students are faced with a barrage of intimidating terms as the list of topics are given to them during our summer math e tutoring programs at eTutorWorld.

They are actually encouraged to use these terms without apprehension during their etutoring classes. A pictorial lesson then creates the visual memory aid and reinforces the idea. Once they are familiar with the language of math, they find the rest of the course a lot easier. Additionally, they are much, much more confident doing math.

Learning math effectively begins at an early age. There are a bunch of basics that, once taught, stay with the child throughout the school years. Whether you are a high school math tutor (face to face or via e tutoring) or an elementary school teacher, getting your students familiar with the math language eases teaching as well. For instance, a Grade 3-4 child will need to be familiar with:


  1. Multiplication and division strategies: Word examples, rather than just plain direct problems are a far more effective method of teaching these topics. Also, pictorially, arrays are a great tool to further reinforce this concept.
  2. Fractions: Using the phrases ‘part and whole’ and ‘out of” go a long way in familiarizing the child with fractions. Using ‘building blocks ‘ as an analogy further strengthens this idea.
  3. Ratios: There are 2 concepts in ratios.

(a) One ratio as part of another: This is an extension of equivalent fractions and can be beautifully illustrated by ‘dividing rectangles’. For instance, “ Three out of four parts and six out of eight parts” mean the same thing. Explaining that the denominator is “the total number of parts” and the numerator is “the number of selected parts” helps a great deal.

(b) Sharing ratios: Once the child learns the idea of ratios as illustrated above, the idea of sharing ratios becomes simpler. For instance, if $48 is divided into 2:3:7 between 3 people and you need to find how much money each person gets, use the following steps (and the terms, of course!)


  • Adding up all the ratios gives you the ratio sum(2+3+7=12).
  • Dividing the whole by the ratio sum(48/12) gives you the multiplier (4).
  • Multiplying this by each number gives you the respective shares,

($2 x 4 = $8, $3 x 4 = $12, $7 x 4 = $28)


As we progress to higher grades, the language of math becomes a little more complex, but the syntax remains the same. Suppose a student is asked to find “ what percent of 144 is 36?”. Replacing the word “what” with w, “percent” with divided by 100, “of” with multiplication and “is” with equals gives us the new math phrase (w/100) x 144 = 36.


There are numerous such examples and learning the idea of math as a language is like having a personal math tutor freely available at any time!

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