Common Sense Review
Updated October 2013


Overly formal math definitions difficult to comprehend for most kids
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Common Sense Rating 2
Teacher Rating (1 Teacher Review) 2
  • Definition for precision begins with an informal yet vague definition, follows with two references, a note, and a textual example.
  • Significant digits definition is overly vague.
  • Angle definition is formally accurate but lacks visual cues to identify the space physically.
  • Definition for inverse tangent is short and sweet but following textual explanation does not encourage comprehension.
  • JavaSketchPad dynamic diagram for angle bisector allows you to manipulate but does not define or explain.
Nearly 2000 terms well organized and easily searchable make for easy access.
Formal language and too many references convolute definitions for most kids.
Bottom Line
Useful for formal terminology study and advanced mathematicians only, this site complicates where it tries to simplify.
Jeff Knutson
Common Sense Reviewer
Senior Manager, Education Content
Common Sense Rating 2
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 2

Plain, dated interface, sparse textual content, indiscernable diagrams and examples all combine for an uneventful experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 2

Despite depth and accuracy, inaccessible definitions discourage learning.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Though it's well-organized and cross-referenced, kids will struggle with clarity of definitions and find themselves frustrated by the lack of help.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

Considering that this resource is apparently not core-aligned and hard to understand for all but the most conversant mathematicians in the class, you should probably limit use to advanced individual reference or reserve it for AP classes focusing on advanced terminology.

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What's It Like?

Mathwords provides easily-to-locate, formal definitions for about 2000 mathematic terms including a few from physics, finance, and modeling. Most definitions contain multiple references to other terms plus either diagrams or examples, but fewer have textual explanations. About 20 terms are accompanied by a dynamic diagram from McGraw-Hill's Geometer's Sketchpad, and 36 terms populate the real-world application list. Terms can be accessed using four search methods: A to Z, full list, subject areas, or Google powered native-and-paid-web-sites search.

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Is It Good For Learning?

If you just need a little nudge to remember a concept or term you already knew and understood, Mathwords will be a helpful reference. If you don't already have a really strong foundation, it could be quite frustrating. It seems like kids who can easily understand these definitions wouldn't need to look them up here in the first place. For example, multiple careful readings of the interrelated terms accuracy, precise, and significant digits built some understanding but raised unanswered questions as well. A comparison of two definitions of function, the first from the Common Core Standards, demonstrates the problems inherent in Mathwords's formal and reference-laden approach.

Common Core: "A function is a rule that assigns to each input exactly one output. The graph of a function is the set of ordered pairs consisting of an input and the corresponding output."

Mathwords: "function: A relation for which each element of the domain corresponds to exactly one element of the range."

You have to look up four other words to understand Mathwords' definition, which is a lot of work. Even with this formal approach intact, expanded definitions with better examples and diagrams would improve learning significantly.

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