Friday, April 20, 2012

Mathematics for ELLs:)

Mathematics can be quite challenging for many ELLs.  The concepts are delivered to them in yet another language---the language of mathematics.  Often times, ELLs have some of the basic terms such as add, subtract, etc., but when word problems enter the picture, they are lost.  Take for example the many ways the function of ADDING is expressed in math problems:  plus, in addition, total, sum, etc.  For the ELL to just know one form of ADD, he will be ill prepared to solve problems where the word ADD is expressed in many ways.  Further, ELLs may not easily see the connection between the math textbook and the real world.  Unless a link is established between the two, the ELL will continue to fall behind his/her English speaking peers. 

How can a bridge to success be established?  Two sites I have here offer some suggestions that may help the classroom teacher build ELL self-confidence in mastering mathematics!

In the above site, students will see a detailed review of the history of many areas of mathematics.  This is a way to build cultural pride since the contributions of pre-Greeks are addressed.  In fact, here students will see that many cultures were working with higher thinking math before the Greeks!  Such information can be empowering for many of these students.  Teachers who weave in the achievements of ancient cultures (representative of the students in the class especially) will see a pride in ancestral achievements and that can be a major motivator.

Colorin Colorado is a powerhouse of everything and anything related to meeting the needs of ELLs at all grade levels.  For this post, I pulled their section on making math accessible to ELLs.  Here there are some excellent tips to turn the incomprehensible to comprehensible with ease.  A few of the suggestions are allowing students to collaborate with bilingual peers.  The class would still be conducted in English, but ELLs would be able to clarify tasks with peers.  Another strategy is to address vocabulary with multiple meanings.  Take the example given here where the question is to FIND X.  The task here is to FIND THE ANSWER and not FIND the X.  Teachers should also identify  KEY VOCABULARY before the lesson so that they will be ready to support ELLs with clear ELL-friendly definitions to support them throughout the lesson.  You will also find some additional math links towards the end of the article as well.



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