Challenges in Content Area Learning for ELLs (English Language Learners)
Challenges for ELLs in Mathematics
Mathematics is not just arithmetic. There are considerable challenges for English language learners in math. There are challenges for teachers of mathematics, too. We may find that our ELLs use different processes to arrive at answers. Many teachers do not validate other systems and prior mathematical knowledge. Problem solving is not just language, but a thought process. Students from other cultures may be more concerned with getting the correct response than with the process. They may not be able to justify their answers.
Difficulties that ELLs face when learning mathematics:
* Formation of numbers varies from culture to culture
* Use of decimal point and comma vary from culture to culture.
* Students have no experience with our measurement system.
* Math is not spirally taught in many cultures. So students may not know a lot about geometry, for example.
* Many students have never seen or worked with manipulatives and may not take a lesson using them seriously.
* Students learn math by rote memory.
* Math curricula in their countries may be primarily calculation.
* Word problems may not be introduced until much later.
* Estimating, rounding, and geometry are not often taught as early in other cultures.
* Mathematical terms do not always translate well.
* Mental math may be the norm. Students may not show work in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division or they may show work in a different way.
Judie Haynes, everythingESL.net, 2004
Adapted from audience response, TESOL 2003
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