This blog post was written by Frances Reade of the Math in Common (MiC) initiative. Reade and the MiC team work with 10 California districts in implementing the new math standards.
“I love math talks! [Also] I started doing a share at the end of the math lessons, and allowing students to share how they solved their problems. These two practices have made my class flourish, and the students are using mathematical language to explain their thinking.”
This is how one elementary school teacher in California responded to a survey when we asked how teachers are changing classroom practice in light of new mathematics standards. For this teacher, language is becoming an exciting and critical component of everyday mathematics instruction.
This teacher’s district, like many across the country, has a high percentage of English language (EL) learners. In a country where 1 in 10 students is an EL, the increasing language demands of the new standards can place math teachers in a bind – they’ve been accustomed to students who can get by or even thrive in procedurally focused math lessons regardless of their English proficiency.
Now, with many districts focusing on student mathematical discourse and on supporting students in explaining and justifying their mathematical thinking verbally and in writing, math teachers who work with EL students are eager to learn about the best ways to support all students in becoming fluent “math speakers.” The same goes for those who support teachers, like math coaches, principals, and district mathematics curriculum and instruction administrators.
In response to a request from the 10 Math in Common* districts for resources to improve support for student subpopulations such as English learners, our WestEd Math in Common team realized that the perfect resource was already available from their colleagues: English Learners and the New Standards had recently been written and published by WestEd EL experts Margaret Heritage, Aida Walqui, and Robert Linquanti.
To accompany the book, we created this readers’ guide for professional learning communities (PLCs) in districts and schools to use as they plan their instructional approaches to EL students in math classrooms. Now we are making the guide available as a free resource to anyone who would like to use it.
The guide is suitable for any group of teachers, principals, or administrators looking for a chapter-by-chapter series of discussion prompts, activities, and planning resources as they read English Learners and the New Standards. We’ve also filmed a series of engaging hour-long webinars with each of the book’s authors, which PLCs can use to go even deeper on standards-aligned EL instruction.
We hope that these resources will support districts, schools, and PLCs who want to help all learners gain the language skills necessary to explain and share their mathematical thinking!
* Math in Common is a network of 10 California school districts that work together to implement the new math standards, with evaluation and technical support from WestEd. The project is funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.