Bird is the WORD? Word Walls: Operational vs. Interactive

February 10, 2014 / by Ryan Eggert

Bird is the word

Disclaimer: This is NOT a blog post intended to freak you out because you don’t have your word walls up nor does it have anything to do with the fact that a certain test that will remain nameless is upon us.  This blog is intended for the sole purpose of ensuring that your classroom is set up DAILY for students to succeed in mathematics by building their vocabulary through discussion and use of visual models.  The timing of this post is purely coincidental.  Finally, the bird is the word.

Operational Word Wall

Purpose: To help students identify important mathematical words or ideas in order to build and develop their mathematical vocabulary.


  • Contains 5 spaces for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and equal to including symbols for each sign.  *Note the different ways multiplication and division is represented
  • Is LARGE enough to be read when sitting anywhere in the room
  • In the display - Addition/Subtraction and Multiplication/Division are OPPOSITE each other to help students visualize the relationship between the two
  • It is NOT done at the beginning of the year by the teacher; rather it is created by STUDENTS and the teacher through exposure to concepts and rich mathematical conversations.
  • Contains vocabulary words that are associated with each tool:
    • Addition (total, plus, more, count on, sum, combine, positive, etc)
    • Subtraction (take away, less, subtract, difference, more than, negative, etc)
    • Multiplication (times, product, groups & items, multiply, etc)
    • Division (break up equally, divide, shared, groups of, partition, etc)
    • Equal (same, equivalent, balanced, etc)

Here’s an example.  It’s recommended to create s small square in the middle to include EQUAL

Operation Word Wall

Interactive Math Word Wall

Purpose: Provide students with a display of mathematical content vocabulary words and visual cues to assist in vocabulary development and problem solving


  • Is NOT done at the beginning of the year by the teacher; rather it is created by STUDENTS and the teacher through exposure to concepts and rich mathematical conversations.
  • Is LARGE enough to be read when sitting anywhere in the room
  • Contains pictoral representations or visual cues to spark student thought and makes them THINK about a concept without giving them an answer
  • Does not contain textbook definitions.  If definitions are on the word wall, they are STUDENT created and use language agreed upon by the class
  • Can be organized by CCSS/M domain or a particular mathematical concept (Numbers and Operations, Data and Statistics, etc.)

Examples of words and visual models that should go up on your wall:

Interactive Word wall 1 Interactive word wall 2

Suggested uses as a formative instructional tool:

  • Integrate the use of cards into daily instruction
  • Include an “active” vocabulary card section containing cards that are currently being used
  • Highlight key words or portions of pictures
  • Add notation, words, or pictures that connect to instructional discussions or formal definitions
  • Group multiple cards when teaching units that include multiple vocabulary words
  • Reformat cards to create a personal set on a ring that can be used for student reference

Get em’ here (in order of awesomeness):

Topics: Professional Learning, New Teachers, Coaching, Math, Literacy, Classroom Setup

Ryan Eggert

Written by Ryan Eggert

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