WordQuations is on the App Store!


    We are so excited to announce our newest vocabulary app, WordQuationsTM, is now on the App Store!

    This iPad app is designed to help students master the subtle meanings of verb synonyms. This app will help students understand
the distinctions between synonyms such as plod, meander,
saunter and slink. The formula presented throughout this app
provides clues about character motivation and feelings for improved reading
comprehension. Students can also use the app to improve verb choices in their
writing eliminating random thesaurus choices. You'll be able to see our actors
from The Simpletons act out each synoynm so students can see the body language
and facial expressions associated with each word. More information is located
on our website.

Language of Math Word Problems

The language contained in math word problems is often abstract, causing difficulty for students with language deficits.  It is essential that students realize the mathematical operation that these words signal.  Although I am not a math tutor, I have spent many an hour working with clients on the setting up of word problems.  

First, they need to learn these concepts--which is hopefully being done in a multi-sensory manner by the math instructor.  We, as language educators, SLPs and parents can reinforce these concepts, moving from hands-on materials, to representative methods, using paper and/or technology.  I usually start by creating pictorial representations, discussing with the student what is happening in the language "story" (word problem). After this, we set the problem up using numbers.  

As students move into higher elementary and middle school years, this pictorial step is often omitted; the assumption being that this step is unnecessary.  Next week, I will share how to use Notability to easily draw, duplicate, combine, etc., which is difficult to do using paper.

This chart of words and operations was accessed from the purplemath website, which is a helpful site for math:

Stapel, Elizabeth.
"Translating Word Problems: Keywords." Purplemath. Available from
Accessed 05 November 2014

© Elizabeth Stapel 2000-2011 All Rights Reserved

Addition increased
more than
combined, together
total of
sum, plus
added to
Subtraction decreased
minus, less
difference between/of
less than,
fewer than
Multiplication of
times, multiplied by
product of
by a
  factor of (this type can
both addition or
  subtraction and
Division per,
out of
ratio of, quotient of
percent (divide by
Equals is,
are, was, were, will be
gives, yields
sold for

Formulating Definitions

Definitions are tricky.  They need to be succinct, conveying the essence of the word or concept without including unnecessary details.  Many students who have expressive language difficulty find definitions very tricky.  Providing them with a formula, and practicing category and function skills will help them improve this necessary skill.

Basically, common nouns can be defined by providing the category label, the function of the item, and whatever additional salient details make the item distinguishable (e.g., the parts or what the item is made of.)  This sounds easy enough, but let's think about what is required for each step.  First, in order to retrieve the appropriate category label, one needs to have words stored categorically, for example, if I say, "sofa--what are some other things that are sort of kind of like it?" I would want to make sure the student has the ability to call to mind words or pictures like, "chair, table, bed," that are also contained in the category.  Secondly, it is from this framework that the category label is retrieved (or not, with many of our students with word-retrieval issues.) Once the student has gone through this "bottom-up" type thinking, they are then required to perform another complex task--that of comparing the item to be defined with all the other items contained in that category, so that important differences can be highlighted. The third step in the definition process for many common nouns is to identify the function.  I might ask, "What does this do, or what do we do with it that makes it special and different from all the other items in that category?"  So if the student says, "You sit on it", I might challenge him with, "I can sit on a bench, a chair and a stool, can you be more specific? How many people might sit on it?"  Once they formulate, for example, "A sofa is a kind of furniture that two or three people can sit on," the fourth step would be to think about the component parts or what the item is made of.  If additional information is needed (e.g., defining a lemon, an airplane, or perfume,) we focus on other salient details, such as size, shape, color, texture, smell, taste, sound, etc.  Many times, so long as the category label, function and parts/made of information is provided, the word has been adequately defined.

Above is a formula that helps students successfully work through each of these steps.  Have fun defining!