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Math is not a universal language. This presentation discusses the math instruction accommodations that should be made when teaching students who have limited English proficiency.

Math is not a universal language. This presentation discusses the math instruction accommodations that should be made when teaching students who have limited English proficiency.

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  • 1. LEP Students and Mathematics Success by: Erin White
    • Math is not a universal language
    • Assessments commonly underestimate their
    • mathematical understanding
    • Opportunity to learn math affects future
    • performance
    • Conclusions and Teacher Recommendations
  • 2. Math is not a universal language.
    • Different cultures view and teach mathematics in many different ways. Vygotsky states in his sociocultural theory that “the cognitive development of a child is affected by his/her culture…” (Berk, 1993). For example: American parents tend to blame the schools and/or lack of ability for a child’s low performance in math, while Japanese counterparts place emphasis on lack of effort (Tsang, 1988).
    • Math vocabulary may not have appropriate transference in their native language. An LEP student has to add new meaning to the word “table” (they think furniture), when learning math (Olivares, 1996). This is common with story problems.
    • Syntax may be different. The comma and decimal point are used in the opposite way in Europe and some South American countries than they are used in the U.S. (1.223,04 instead of 1,223.04) (Olivares, 1996).
  • 3.
    • In a research study done by Edward DeAvila in the early ’90’s it concluded that language proficiency was the most important factor in mathematics achievement, even more influential than socioeconomic status.
    • Further research proved this true even more with the significant difference revealed in standardized test scores in math calculations vs. math problem solving over a 3 year study in Hawaii. (Abedi, Chin-Chance, & Gronna, 2000) The LEP participants in this study consistently scored much higher in calculations than problem solving, where they relied on their English language proficiency to understand what the problem was asking them to do.
  • 4. Assessments commonly underestimate LEP students mathematical understanding
    • The significantly large discrepancy between LEPs’ high calculation scores and low problem solving scores reveals that perhaps they have a much higher understanding of math than the scores reveal, but the language barrier prevents them from excelling when “Academic English skills” are needed. (Abedi, Chin-Chance, & Gronna, 2000) “To succeed in the mainstream classroom, LEP students must learn both English communication and academic skills (Carey, Secada, & Schucher, 1990)
    • In a 2000 qualitative study, research showed that the majority of teachers in the study had lower achieving predictions for their LEP students, gave them approximately 2 seconds wait time after questioning, and recommended they be placed in low level math courses due to the teachers lack of knowledge of the LEP students’ level of math understanding. (Rhine, 2000)
  • 5. Opportunity to learn math affects future performance.
    • In a 1999 Quantitative study involving participants from an urban southern California school district results showed that immigrant LEP students were enrolled in the low-level math courses the majority of the time. It also showed that native born LEP students weren’t too far behind them. On the other hand, it revealed that English proficient immigrants (mainly form Japan or China) were commonly enrolled in honors courses (Wang, 1999). The point to be made here is that teachers, counselors, and others may be stifling certain LEP students and their future career success by “doing them a favor” and putting them in easier courses. Many LEP students are missing the “opportunity to learn” and advance due to course placement.
  • 6. Conclusions
    • More teacher training in understanding the complexities and challenges for students learning English as a new/second language should be necessary.
    • Home-school outreach programs should be funded and encouraged to get LEP families involved in their child’s education.
    • A translator or similar aid could help assess a student’s understanding of math more accurately, possibly leading to less placement in “low-level” math courses.
    • An in-service that educates counselors, administrators, and teachers about the “opportunity to learn” affect could change their tendency to automatically place LEP students in “low level” courses in all subject areas. This could open more doors for LEP students, their future careers, and their future contributions to our society.
    • More emphasis needs to be placed on LEP students learning “academic English” in addition to “English communication skills”. If families are willing to help, perhaps a grant could help fund helpful handbooks for parents and tutors could be made available to support the acquisition of “academic English skills”.
  • 7. Recommendations
    • Increase your own knowledge of your students’ culture.
    • Simplify your language, not the content!
    • Demonstrate with visuals and audiovisuals (manipulatives, pictures, DVDs, CDs, etc.)
    • Allow LEP students to express themselves in their native tongue, then translate later with translator, etc.- this will allow them to express their math thinking more freely and get in touch with their own heuristics.
    • Encourage LEP students to speak and share thoughts about how they are solving math problems with others who speak their native language as well as pairing them with English speaking students.
    • Increase wait time.
    • Make math meaningful to them by bringing in their culture and their families. They could formulate their own story problems.
    • Make use of free publications and free translation websites. (see card)
  • 8.