ELL’s and Math as a Language

Posted on February 23, 2020. Filed under: Uncategorized |

When working with Ell learners, you should always have a content goal and a language goal (Echavarria, Vogt & Short, 2000).  You want to always think about the ways in which you are exposing the students to the vocabulary over time.

  1. Content Goal

The content goal is the math that students are working on.  This should be written in an I can or I am learning to  statement on the task.

  1. Language Goal

When working with ELL’s, (however I would argue that this is a good practice when working with all learners), teachers should have a variety of strategies to make the language accessible to the students.  Language frames are part of the tools used to scaffold access to the words and phrases.  So, things like “I am proving my thinking by…” should be put on a sentence frame for students to use.  Another example is    “I have _________ more than  __________.    I have __________ less than __________.

The issues of linguistic complexity (readability, syntax and complex vocabulary) and word problems have long been studied (Martiniello, 2008). Martiniello looked at how the linguistic complexity interferes with Ell’s comprehension of word problems. The NRC (2000 p.20) points out that “A test [of proficiency in a content area] cannot provide valid information about a student’s knowledge or skills if a language barrier prevents the students from demonstrating what they know and can do” (cited in Martiniello).

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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