4 Important Things to Include on an Algebra 2 Word Wall

Special Education Algebra 2 classroom word wall on a bulletin board

The first thing I hear when telling people I teach Algebra 2 is, "Whoa, that must be hard!", or something along these lines. Then when I tell them it's Special Education, forget about it. If you teach high school, you know that high school kids are just little kids in big bodies and sometimes with even bigger emotions. But I have found that they sometimes like to hide these emotions deep, deep down and that this is especially true in Math. 

special education Algebra

What I want to tell people when they ask what I do for a living is "boost kids' feelings towards Math". Can I make that an official title? All jokes aside, I take this part of my job very seriously. Word walls in my classroom are an essential extension of my teaching. Kids say the darndest things! They also ask the most random questions. It's addressing those little teaching moments that has helped my students fill in their learning gaps. Word walls play a huge part in this because of how easy they make pointing to examples when these questions come up. So what's on my Math word wall? 

high school Math word wall

1: Links to Algebra 1
In Algebra 2 we find x- and y-intercepts all year. We also look at the "slopes" of nonlinear functions, like with the sides of absolute value graphs. I added an Algebra 1 word wall to my classroom this year because of how necessary it became to connect our Algebra 2 material back to what my students had previously learned. 

math word wall

A list of square numbers and their square roots is hanging on another wall in our classroom. This seems like such a small thing, but by 11th grade, very few of my students can rattle off their multiplication tables, which makes factoring very difficult. BTW, kids think "square" is short for "square root". Why oh why must the words be so similar? There is also a difference of squares example posted next to my list of square numbers and square roots, which helps my students remember the format for factoring these quadratics. Lastly, I hung a list of prime numbers to help with number sense, especially when factoring. 

2: Examples
Being able to use an example to complete a similar problem is a skill that needs developing. This was something I recently learned but that makes total sense. Independence and confidence both increase when students can use examples to complete new problems. I have found that example posters help.  

Here are a couple posters I painted that act as examples for factoring trinomials and binomials. That factoring binomials is so much harder for students may always remain a mystery!

Word Wall in Algebra 2

Having these posters hanging in my classroom has totally transformed my teaching. When those little questions come up, I can quickly remind students of vertex form shifts and how graphs relate to their equations. 

 My students have made the following observations about Quadratic, Radical and Absolute Value functions:

"Curvy brackets, curvy graph." (Quadratic)
"The radical graph looks like the square root symbol." (Radical)
"The lines are straight just like the sides of the graph." (Absolute Value)

Algebra 2 word wall

3: Key words
Especially during our quadratics unit, keywords are so important. This Quadratic Keywords poster makes our projectile motion unit SO fun. It's fun for me to see how much progress my students make during this unit, and it's fun for them to be able to solve equations that a week earlier seemed impossible. 

high school math word wall

On the Algebra 2 part of our word wall are references for domain, range, increasing and decreasing with notation references and then graph examples for increasing and decreasing. 

Connecting the keywords back to contextualized examples lets students see how these words are used. 

4: Equations
And of course, equations. Here is our Quadratic Formula poster.

Word wall in Algebra 2

Once I added the white paint (ok, the whiteout) to the variables, my students were better able to add in their values to solve. 

This is an old photo of our Algebra 1 word wall equations (with a little Geometry thrown in) that has since been updated. Every year I add more and more to our word walls. The post High School Math Word Wall Ideas has additional photos of the word walls in our classroom.  

Algebra 2 Word WallAlgebra 1 Word Wall

Geometry Word Wall

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  1. Fantastic Post!! We (math teachers at my school) are always looking for word wall ideas that are not boring! GREAT JOB!

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know (and for reading my post at all - lol!) :)

  2. Hello, I am a certified Biology and English teacher who, because I also have the hours in math, am teaching Algebra II and Geometry at a small high school that has been without a math teacher for 2 years. In addition to catching up the nonsped students, I need to reach the sped ones, too. This post is great, but my experience with some of the sped students is that their processing skills are not up to the task even if working one on one with them for large amounts of time each day. Do you have a suggestion for modifying the curriculum in a way that they get the basics and can master them on their own? Thanks!

    1. I am a big believer in math word walls because the information stays available for students even when we are not on that topic. The references help keep prior learning activated and let students be a bit more independent. In my Algebra 2 classroom there are word wall references for Algebra too to help my students relate new material back to what they had previously learned. On my blog is also a post called "4 FREE Algebra and Algebra 2 Warm-up Templates". We use these templates for warm ups and quick checks a lot. The template becomes a familiar routine.

      But more than anything, I feel that it could be a lack of confidence. This is what I see in my own students. I'd maybe even say this is most of it. If a kid appears to be processing slowly there could be an emotional component there. Our kids have failed repeatedly, so math is scary. I know that I shy away from things that I don't like, and I don't like things that I have failed at. So it becomes a "which came first?" situation. In my experience, word walls, routine and encouragement go a long way. And jokes! I like to keep things light.