Supporting ELLs in the MATH Classroom

June 12, 2015 ***** Region 18 ESC

Facts & Myths of ELLs in the Classroom

Spanish Math Activity

Activity Version #1

Activity Version #2

Activity #2 offers a visual integration of the pattern. It also provides a more explicit question as to what we ACTUALLY want the students to find. Need to be transparent with our ELL students as to what we want them to find.

Question 1: What frustrations did you experience during this activity?

Understanding of the words used, and the math used could lead to the frustration on both sides. For ELLs, not understanding the context can be frustrating even though they know what the words are saying. For non-ELLs, the frustration can be with not understanding the wording used.

Question #2: How did you handle or deal with not knowing the language?

Question #3: What strategies did you use to carry out the task?

Worksheets with visuals are very helpful. Looking for keywords (highlight, underline, circle, etc.). Use this as a teachable moment to help them learn to break apart the information.

Many ELLs have the opportunity to use dictionaries, so they need to be used routinely in order to be effective. Teachers must use them on a consistent basis. GET THEM & USE THEM!!!

Amplifying Instructional Tasks

Specified by TEA.

How does the Spanish Math Activity Relate to the Amplifying Instructional Tasks?

The Amplified Tasks (A, B, C, & D) gives a real-world meaning. Task A provides a starting point to develop an understanding of the given situation. Task B starts integrating the vocabulary (paired with visuals) for students to make the connection between scenario and the context. Task C integrates the writing aspect of context understanding. Students are asked to justify their response in writing, and consider keywords to include in their written justification. Task D expands the knowledge, and requires the students to do more with the scenario (write an equation, and use the equation to solve the problems).

Original Task
Activity A
Activity B
Activity C
Activity D

Portuguese Math Activity/Video

The video portrays a teacher teaching in Portuguese to his students. They are measuring in millimeters using a ruler. He made the lesson demonstrative by showing and emphasizing different components of the materials he was using. The ruler needed to be in "Millimeters" not inches. He restated this a few times to ensure that students were following along. He also takes moments throughout the lesson to ask for questions to ensure students are following along.


Voices of HS ELLs

Math Implications of L2 Development

Characteristics Stages of an ELL: Beginning Stage, Intermediate Stage, Advanced Stage

What other different math notations or algorithms have you observed used by your ELLs? How have you addressed them?

The only thing that most have noticed are the writing of numerals. Should we be addressing them? Does it matter how numbers are written if you and the student can understand what information is being portrayed?

Division is another area of algorithmic difference. Some teachers are wanting students to show all the steps, but some ELLs have learned a different method. Since it does not follow the traditional algorithm, they are getting those problems marked wrong because their steps do not match YOUR way.

If students are able to justify the answer and explain everything about their process, they should not get those problems wrong. Our job is to help identify areas of incorrect processes, and perhaps provide faster methods based on their experiences.

Homonyms and Homophones

Have you encountered math homonyms and homophones challenged with your ELLs? How have you addressed them?

Big Thing: 130 is said as one hundred AND thirty, instead of the proper one hundred thirty. It is important to start with the younger students to say the proper wording.

How do students learn a new language and mathematics?

  • They write to communicate what they are learning.
  • They learn in groups.
  • The learning is set in context.

How do you promote students mathematical communication?

How do you employ (Mathematics as a Second Language) MSL strategies to be successful?

Main component of MSL: vocabulary activities (journal, group work, projects)

Include these types of activities on a more regular basis. The methods are the same for regular mathematics learning, so we are already comfortable using these methods. The question becomes how much are we using during class time.

Framework for Analyzing Word Problems

Students need to be able to break apart word problems into the different clauses. From those clauses, they need to be able to decipher the mathematical meaning behind each one. Students should be able to determine clearly what the TASK of the problem is. What is the student being asked to do? As they decipher the information, students should be able to determine the Who? What happened? Additional important information? How much did it cost? etc.


TEA has created two different models for us to use as we are helping students develop the representation and purpose of the situation. As we learn our standards, students will b e required to understand situations that are represented in multiple ways. Using the REP-PURPOSE CHART will help record and organize our thoughts as to what is each of the representations, how do I show it, and how do I explain it. Another model that it is used is the Problem-Solving Model. Students will be required to analyze, plan, solve, justify, and evaluate. Students need to ensure they can explain and understand how to justify their answer is correct. Students also need to evaluate the appropriateness or reasonableness of their problem solving methods.