Sunday, September 9, 2012

Liven Up Math Classes With These Videos--Great Additional Support for Struggling Learners

Math language can cause problems for many English language learners.  Math word problems are especially difficult because the language around the word problem can often times be a challenge.  As a very basic example, look at the many synonyms for "DECREASE":  subtract, take away from, lowered by, reduce, minus, etc.  Then there are the NON-MATH words in the problems.  Look at this basic math problem for elementary school:

Five boys and three girls went on a field trip.  How many children went on the field trip all together?

First problem--the problem starts off with BOYS and GIRLS and then combines the two to make CHILDREN.  An ELL will wonder where that word came from (unless the teacher has addressed it).  Then there is the word "FIELD TRIP."  FIELD TRIP to many ELLs would mean a school yard or big open area with trees and lots of room to run and play.  Again, unless the teacher explains that there is not connection between a field and a field trip, the student will be confused.  Last, the words "all together."  To an English speaking student, that means ADD.  That will be a new word for the ELL.   So math teachers will also need to be English language teachers no matter what level of math they teach:)

Since math becomes increasingly more difficult as ELLs move on to middle school and high school, the same problem still faces them---the language of math.  Teachers need to develop the math language before the ELL can undertake solving the problem.

The video sites below offer more support for struggling students both ELLs and EOs.  Since it is visually presented in simple formats, it should be comprehensible for the majority of students.  Students hear the problem, see it drawn out, and watch it being solved as the teacher carefully covers each step of the process slowly and accurately (with a dose of humor throughout).  Further, these are sites that they can access at home, school library, on smart phones, iPads, tablets, etc.  For such students to know that they can revisit a math activity as often as they like until they finally understand it eases some of the stress of trying to learn English and content at the same time. 

Both sites are free of course though they do want students and teachers to register.  If students don't feel comfortable doing this, the teacher can just load these sites on class computers for students to use as needed.

Please note that though I am not a math teacher, I am an instructional coach who looks for practical ways to support all teachers with ELLs in their classes.  So what I share with you here, I pass on to colleagues:)





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