2.Judit Moschkovich: Math, Common Core, and ELLs

Uploaded by UnderstandLanguage on 08.04.2012

>>Judit Moshkovich: When I think about the question, “What do English learners need
in mathematics classrooms?” I think that first they need teachers that are prepared
to teach math for understanding. And the Common Core standards are a wonderful way to focus
on teaching math for understanding. The second thing that English learners need is for administrators
and teachers to know that they- English learners CAN participate in mathematical discussions.
The third thing I would want administrators and teachers to know is that children, as
they’re participating in mathematical discussions, may use imperfect language or language that’s
from their everyday lives and experiences, and they’re not going to sound like mathematicians,
they may not use formal language. On the other hand it’s the role of teachers to help children
connect to their ways of talking that are more everyday and to transform these into
more academic ways of talking. Another point in the paper that I presented
here is that we in math education are very clear that both for English learners and for
students who are native English speakers instruction needs to focus on mathematical practices,
not on vocabulary, single words or single sentences. What students need to be doing
is participating in mathematical practices such as abstracting, generalizing, and of
course our favorites, which are conjecturing and using mathematical reasoning.
Focusing on mathematical practices means that instruction will also be focusing on students’
conceptual understanding. Now it’s tough to see and know when students are actually
showing you that they understand something. You can’t just say, “Did you understand?”
and then have them tell you “Yes! I understood.” So what the Common Core standards, I believe
help teachers to do is to ask students for evidence that they have conceptual understanding,
or that they understand, and this evidence is usually reasoning, if they can explain
why something is the case, why does multiplying two fractions that are positive and smaller
than one make the result smaller. They can also use multiple representations.
And the last point that I make in the paper is that teachers need to learn how to uncover
the mathematics in what students say and do, because if students are using imperfect language,
or if their drawings are sometimes difficult to understand, or if their words are sometimes
difficult to understand, and this is true for native English speakers as well, when
somebody’s explaining their mathematical thinking it may not be completely clear what
it is that we’re saying. When this is going on it’s important to focus on, what’s
the mathematics in what students are saying and doing?
I want us to stop thinking about English learners as the problem. I instead think of English
learners as a gift, because when we hear imperfect language with an accent or it’s not quite
right in its tense, it’s as if we have a window into language, and it reminds us that
even if you’re in a monolingual English class, with kids who are all English speakers,
there are language issues going on there as well, and we tend to forget that, unless we
walk into a classroom where you have some English learners.