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eLearning Blog: Supporting English Learners in Math

on Friday, 22 May 2020.

By: Clare Roach, Itzxul Moreno, Jennifer Dees, and Katy Lichon

ENL eLearning Blog Series

Educators are navigating unprecedented challenges, and the ENL team has heard from many of you who have questions about English learners and remote learning. We are responding to these concerns each week with strategies and suggestions.

We’ve addressed many topics in past posts, including navigating communication, the digital divide, delivering clear directions, inserting language supports, providing speaking opportunities, supporting older siblings, and encouraging the use of home languages. This post will specifically address some ways to respond to the challenge math presents for ELs during eLearning.

Challenge: What can I do to help my English learners with math during eLearning?

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing how to support language based eLearning assignments for ELs, so we wanted to take a few moments to spotlight math. Here are some tips we think will be helpful. Many thanks to a teacher in Ohio for posting this question.

Teach the Language of Math

It can be easy to overlook the explicit teaching of the language of math during eLearning, especially if students are working independently on online math platforms.

    • Take a few moments in a morning greeting to remind students of different ways we express similar ideas in math (i.e. add, sum, all together, in total, in all, etc.).
    • Remember to frontload vocabulary. If you are working on multiplication, review terms such as factor and product at the beginning of the lesson by sharing an example, a visual, and practicing pronunciation for/with the students.
    • Another great way to highlight math language is to have a word problem for the day in which you remind students about key words within the problem. See our earlier posts on Screencasting to learn a technique that you can utilize to model or “think out loud” the problem.
    • Tune into this ENL Podcast about supporting math.

Incorporate Online Platforms

In response to school closures, tons of online math programs are currently cost-free for teachers. We think two are especially good fits for ELs:

    • Happy Numbers offers a visually rich approach to instruction, the games build mathematical intuition, and it is offered in both English and Spanish. 
    • ST Math comes very highly recommended by ACE’s Blended Learning team because of the genius way it builds math intuition visually. ST Math demonstrations and activities use very little language, which can remove linguistic barriers for ELs. Of course, we need to remember that we must also teach them the language of math. See our comments above!

Utilize Home Language Resources

Consider inviting students to preview or review math lessons in their home language. This is a great technique to use if you get the sense that the language of instruction is a challenge for parents being able to help their children. You can suggest parents do activities with their students in their home language. Two great resources to use are:

    • Khan Academy International has online tutorials in 31 languages and 13 more in progress! 
    • Xtra Math is a great way to help students build automaticity with math facts. It is offered in over 10 languages. Look for the language menu on the right hand side of their homepage.

Keep-up the great work!

The ENL Team
Clare, Itzxul, Jenny, and Katy

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