English As A Second Language Education
When the English as a second language learner (ESL) or the English language learner (ELL) students have achieved English proficiency, it helps students to develop their understanding of mathematics. Students then effectively use mathematical tools, charts, patterns and other strategies, as well as their prior learning experiences to make connections to solve related problems. The majority are able to transfer their manipulative exploration to solving problems with pencil and paper. Students use multiple solutions and strategies when they solve problems. They express their mathematical thinking through drawing, writing, and speaking. Students ...view middle of the document...
The myth is until students learn English, there’s no point in trying to teach them content-area subjects. In reality, it is not necessary (or desirable) to wait until students are fluent in English before teaching them subject matter content (Carpenter, 1995). In fact, one effective way of learning a non-native language is to study content area subject matter through the media of the non-native language (McKeon & Samway, 1999).
From my own experience, many ESL/ELL students gravitate towards mathematics and towards fields where mathematics is essential such as physics, economics, engineering, etc. They assume that their language deficiencies will not handicap them as much as they would in other fields. They believe that the necessary level of English proficiency is lower in the study of mathematics because of the symbolic nature of the subject. Although learning English is essential for school success for all language minority students, the acquisition of English alone in no way guarantees that ESL/ELL students will succeed academically. Since understanding develops out of what people already know, teachers who teach for understanding constantly try to connect new problems to their students’ prior mathematical knowledge and backgrounds.
ESL/ELL Students’ Academic Advantages & Challenges
ESL/ELL students have knowledge gained in their country of origin, and this knowledge can be a useful part of their overall learning. Sometimes ESL learners have had experiences that make them particularly determined to succeed. Even if minority students have different ways to solve problems, they still get the same results. In fact, ESL students are often more creative in their approach to mathematics. Minority students
have the power of viewing a problem from different perspectives. They demonstrate their knowledge in many different ways.
However, the ESL/ELL students need to have skills and knowledge in the content area as well as the ability to clearly communicate their understanding in English. In mathematics for instance, they need to be able to do the mathematical calculations and they also need to explain their mathematical thinking by writing reports (http://www.sofweb.vic.edu.au/lem/esl/evce.html). Therefore, a mathematics teacher must teach students to communicate like mathematicians. Minority students often believe that mathematics does not require language proficiency because math involves logics and techniques to solving problems. However, five major categories of writing apply to the instruction of mathematics: direct use of language, whereby students record and copy information; linguistic translation, whereby mathematical equations are translated into English; summarization, which helps the student clarify the mathematical process in his/her mind and to reflect upon the process; applied use of language encourages the student to apply the concepts to a real-world and analyze problem-solving strategies; and creative use of language, which...