Here is an example of how I let students build these connections when teaching properties of numbers:
"OK, where have you heard the word "commute" before?"
(Students usually talk about their commute to school.)
"What does it mean?"
(They offer their own definitions, and I pull the focus toward words like "moving" and "transport.")
I have students write these key words in their notebook, and maybe even a little picture to help visual learners to remember. Then, I introduce the Commutative Property and show how the numbers can sometimes "commute" without changing the value of the expression.
Next, I ask "Where have you heard the word "associate"?"
(Students offer discussion about business partners, or "associating" with a certain group of friends. I pull out words like "group" or "partner" from their explanations).
I introduce the Associative Property and we look at how the groupings have changed. (Check out this Infographic on Properties of Numbers.) The lesson continues.
The most important piece of this strategy is making sure the kids develop the "big meaning" for the word. Not every vocabulary term has root words that can be analyzed. However, you might be surprised how many of your vocabulary terms actually do contain root words. Here is a great list of math-specific vocabulary roots. Check out these vocabulary puzzles for more examples and ideas.
Another example is "polynomial." Usually, the students have covered "polytheism" in History class, and "polyhedron" in earlier math classes. Try having your kids come up and write any words they can think of containing the root "poly." Here are the ones my students usually write:
Here are a few other tips for vocabulary instruction: