Experts outline challenges facing math instruction


To understand why ELLs struggle, Hakansson asked the audience why English is so complicated and presented attendees with a series of questions to illustrate just how confusing a new language can be:

  • “The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.”
  • “Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.”

In addition to those tongue-twisters, definitions of certain concepts or things in English can differ from mathematical definitions—for instance, in the English language, a line is any line segment, but in mathematical terms, a line is infinite.

For more information on improving math achievement, see:

Boosting Math Skills Through Personalized Instruction

Solving the STEM Education Crisis

Handheld technology such as graphing calculators can help all students, but especially ELLs, explore math and science concepts, become engaged, and use polling features to anonymously indicate if they have or have not grasped a concept, and they can help students feel empowered while they learn, she said.

Teachers can learn how to effectively teach and communicate with ELLs by becoming familiar with any misinterpretations their ELL students might have, collaborating with teachers using technology as well as ELL teachers, and forming communities of practice.

Laura Ascione

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