How Language-Rich Math Can Help Students Learning English

| EdSource | Zaidee Stavely

When Nicole Thompson teaches a math word problem to her fourth grade class in Pajaro Valley Unified, she has the class read it over three times.

After the first read, students discuss with a partner what the situation is that’s described in the word problem. The second time, they discuss what numbers they see and what those numbers mean. The third time, they talk about the question and what they need to solve.

Thompson said the strategy really helps her students, especially those for whom English is a second language.

“This really enhances the comprehension part of it,” said Thompson. “Our story problems are paragraphs long and the students can feel really bogged down when they’re looking at their math page.”

Thompson learned this strategy during a series of trainings on improving math instruction for multilingual learners, a term that refers to all students who speak a language other than English at home. The trainings were organized by the nonprofit organization TNTP, formerly known as The New Teacher Project and Stanford University’s center for Understanding Language, which is focused on improving instruction and assessment of English learners and other students. TNTP offered the training program in 2021 to teachers in Pajaro Valley Unified in Santa Cruz County, West Contra Costa Unified in the Bay Area and Aspire Public Schools in the Central Valley.

“We know from our work that multilingual learners do not have the same access to grade-level assignments as their peers,” said Jeanine Harvey, director of multilingual learner academics at TNTP. “We wanted to show teachers that all students could engage with grade-level assignments with the right supports.”

Read the full article on EdSource.

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About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP