Technical terminology

When students are working with technology, they will need to navigate technical language that is used for entering syntax and using menus.

Increasingly, technologies require the user to use single words or short phrases when accessing inbuilt features to solve problems. Different technologies place different demands on students with regards to terminology.

For example, the syntax and menus of spreadsheet programs differ from those found in graphic calculators. Students need to be familiar with the technologies they are using and have strategies for learning the terminology needed for new technologies. 

Creating glossaries of technological terms

One strategy is for teachers to ask students to create a table of terms used for syntax and in menus for each new technology used in a mathematics classroom. Having students give an explanation of the purpose of each term in their own words can help them to clarify the reasons for using the terms.

Recording the syntax encourages students to note the exact syntax to access a given feature and adding comments about the given term will help students in their communication with the technology.  This can also be a stimulus for class discussion about the precision of syntax needed when communicating with technology.

To help students to learn the terminology needed to communicate with a mathematics technology, students can progressively add to a glossary of terms for each technology as they learn about different features of the given technology.

Teachers can also:

  • ask students to share the terms they have included to help build a collective glossary
  • discuss precise commands (or syntactical requirements) and comments to ensure that students have correctly documented these in their glossaries.

Examples of glossaries

Below are some example tables students have created to support a range of digital technologies used in mathematics, and demonstrate the use of ICT as a tool to support learning in mathematics (VCAA, n.d.).


Syntax or comments
Adds the values in the selected cells 

=sum(A1:A4) would add the values in cells A1, A2, A3 and A4.

Don't forget the equals sign at the front.


Produce a scatterplot for bivariate data

The scatterplot is found in 'charts' and called 'scatter'

Dynamic Geometry

Syntax or comments
To find a point of intersection

Sometimes there will be more than one point of intersection.


Produces a polygon, e.g. a triangle, quadrilateral, pentagon,  etc.

For any polygon you can add the required number of points to the screen (e.g. three for a triangle) and then join with segments.

Regular polygon

Produces a regular polygon where all sides and internal angles are equal, for example, an equilateral triangle, a square, a regular pentagon, etc.

For a regular polygon there will be syntax which is particular to the given technology being used.

Computer Algebra System

Syntax or comments
To solve equations

solve (2x+4=8,x)

solve(a*x+3=m, x)

Remember to put in multiplication between 'a' and 'x', otherwise the CAS reads this as 'ax' a two-letter variable.


Prime factorisation of a number.

Writes an expression in factorised form, where possible.

factor (15)