Term Paper: Mathematics Instruction in English

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[. . .] Bilingual education in classrooms is comprised solely of ELL students. In these classes, two periods of reading and all of the major content areas are taught in the students' native language. Students testing between the 30th and 40th percentiles on the Language Assessment Battery (LAB) receive, gradually, more instruction in English. ELL students are placed in these classes unless they are "opted out" by their parents or test out once they surpass the 40th percentile on the LAB. Two periods of ESL instruction (the amount mandated by law) occurs within the classroom. In some cases, a push in or pull out program is also employed for supplemental ESL instruction.

While the written policy for this program states that instruction is in the pupil's dominant language this does not hold true for all bilingual classes at PS 189. The "Transitional classes" here are quite different. Instruction in all content areas is done in English and there is one period of native language arts. This practice contradicts most research studies that show that students with a solid foundation in their own native language can apply that knowledge to learn a foreign language faster. By doing this PS 189 is not only contradicting its philosophy, it is also doing a disservice to the ELL students in these bilingual classrooms. In this program English is being introduced at the expense of the students' native language.

The schools latest effort in pushing English came last month when all "bilingual teachers" where informed that they too were to begin teaching Mathematics in English. Not only are these students forced to learn in a linguistically and culturally unfamiliar environment but now they will also have the added pressure of learning mathematical concepts, procedures, and applications in a language they do not yet fully understand. This in my opinion may be very problematic because the language of mathematics may be too complex for them to grasp at this point in their learning. I have my reservations as to the positive effects of such action, and if in fact it improves student learning.


When math is taught in English to ELL second graders, will math scores increase more or less than when ELL second graders are taught math in Spanish?


Scores will decrease or increase less due to the lack of support in the students' native language.


Design and procedure

The study will examine the effectiveness of English instruction during math in a second grade bilingual program. The design of the study will consist of a pretest / post-test design.

The pretest which is administered in Spanish will be used as baseline data, and the post-test will be administered in order to determine if instruction in English will produce an increase in student test scores. The English instruction of mathematics will be implemented in the month of January.


The subjects of this study will consist of 28 second grade students at Elementary Public School 189. The subjects range in age from eight to nine years. All of the subjects are Spanish dominant and have never received mathematics instruction in English before. The students' comprehension and discourse in the English language are at a beginner level.


The McGraw-Hill Mathematics Chapter Tests and Cumulative Tests will be used in this study. These are 25 item tests that are used to measure student learning and retention of the mathematical concepts. They also provide summative data and point to point progress information. Interviews and observation checklists will also be used in the study. The interviews will provide qualitative data on student attitudes and perceptions and will be a powerful tool to measure the hypothesis. By interviewing and observing student interactions I will be able to reinforce if the lack of support in their native language is affecting their academic achievement or not.


In conclusion, the purpose of this study will be to examine the effectiveness of English instruction of mathematics on second grade English Language Learners. If the study reveals a practically significant increase in test scores, than English instruction at this level may be advantageous in the learning and maintaining of mathematical concepts and second language learning. If this study shows that instruction in English has no effect or has a negative effect on mathematics instruction, then additional studies should be conducted to explore a more effective approach. The goal of this study is to gather and report relevant achievement information that can be used to improve instruction and programs offered to ELL students.

Should be in APA format/without annotations

Most can be found in ERIC database)


Buchanan, Keith; Helman, Mary (1997). Reforming Mathematics Instruction for ESL Literacy Students. ERIC Digest.

This digest focuses on the reforming mathematics instruction for ESL students who have had limited or interrupted schooling in their first language. It discusses correlating mathematics instruction with language skills building and effective instructional strategies for literacy students.

Chamot, A.U. (1992). Learning Problem Solving Strategies of ESL Students.

Bilingual Research Journal, 16 (3), 1-34.

Among 32 ESL students who received training in metacognitive strategies for mathematics problem solving, those students who were the highest achievers in mathematics and whose teachers were involved in extensive project activities were the better problem solvers than less able math students or students in low implementation classrooms.

Ciancone, Tom (1990). Count Me In! Integrating Numeracy into the ESL Literacy Curriculum. TESL Talk, 20 (1), 251-260.

Offers suggestions for teachers to integrate the functional uses of numbers and mathematics into the English-as-a-Second-Language classroom curriculum, as well as several sources of information for additional exercises and ideas for activities.

Fulton-Scott, Merle J.; Calvin, Allen D. (1983). Bilingual Multicultural Education vs. Integrated and Non-Integrated ESL Instruction. NABE: The Journal for the National Association for Bilingual Education, 7 (3), 1-12.

A study of three elementary school programs for non-English-proficient Hispanic children compared grade point averages in math, reading, and language achievement test scores of first and sixth graders.

Kimball, Mary Holt (1990). Soundoff. How Can We Best Help ESL Students? Mathematics Teacher, 83 (8), 604-605.

Discussed are the problems faced by mathematics students who have limited English proficiency. Suggestions for teaching these students in the context of mathematics are provided.

Krashen, S. (1982). Principles and Practice in Second language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

This book outlines Second Language Acquisition, the study of the way in which people learn a language other than their mother tongue.

Lara Alecio, Rafael; Parker, Richard; Aviles, Claudia; Mason, Samantha; Irby, Beverly J. (1998). A Study of the Use of Manipulatives in the Assessment of Mathematics Instruction with ESL Hispanic Students. Bilingual Research Journal, 22 (2), 215-235.

As an alternative form of mathematics assessment for use with limited-English-proficient students, 14 mathematics tasks using manipulatives were administered to 45 Hispanic students in grades 1-3 and re-administered 2-3 weeks later.

Leach, Sue; Bowling, Jenny (2000). A Classroom Research Project: ESL Students and Language of Mathematics. Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 5 (1), 24-27.

Describes a project that addressed how teachers can help second language learners with difficulties of written mathematical situations. Concludes that retrieving and transforming what students know about mathematics into their own words is a crucial part of mathematics learning.

Lee, Fong Yun; Silverman, Frederick L.; Montoya, Patricia (2002). Assessing he Math Performance of Young ESL Students. Principal, 81 (3), 29-31.

Describes proven assessment strategies, which, used separately or in combination, can help young ESL students express their understanding of math concepts while building their English-language skills.

Marr, Beth (2000). Talking Volumes: Enhancing Talk, Language and Conceptual Development in Adult Mathematics and Numeracy Classes. Literacy and Numeracy Studies, 10 (1), 55-69.

Focuses on the acquisition of mathematical language. Through asking how one can reflect on things one cannot name, examines students' opportunities to practice mathematical language in two classrooms.

Mendez, Gloria I. (1982). Bilingual Children's Adaptation after a Transitional Bilingual Education. Metas, 3 (1), 1-112.

Describes research among Hispanic and White fourth graders in regular bilingual, or ESL classes, on relationships between academic achievement and types of instructional programs. Discusses implications of findings for designing programs for Hispanics.

Mujica, Barbara (1995). Findings of The New York City Longitudinal Study: Hard Evidence on Bilingual and ESL Programs. READ Perspectives, 2 (2), 7- 35.

Reports on a study that evaluated the progress of limited-English-proficient students, focusing on the time required to exit LEP programs and on the reading and mathematics achievement of students who move on to monolingual English classes.

Reilly, Tarey (1988). ESL through Content Area Instruction. ERIC Digests.

Content-based ESL programs have been developed to provide students with an opportunity to develop their cognitive academic language proficiency, as well as provide a less abrupt transition form the ESL classroom to an all-English-medium academic program.

Tevebaugh, Tara N. (1998). Mathematics Is Not a Universal Language. Teaching Children Mathematics, 5 (4), 214-216.

Discusses the misconception that ESL students do not need special language instruction to learn mathematics. Suggests that teachers create a supportive and trusting environment in which students are not afraid… [END OF PREVIEW]

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