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Grasp the Language, Grasp the Mathematics

author: Leslie Garrison, Royce Page, Sandra Burgos, Mary Petersen, Cecilia Dominguez Dial
submitter: Royce Page, Valle Imperial Mathematics K-8 Local Systemic Change Project
description: In July 2004, five members of the VIM team attended ICME-10 in Copenhagen, Denmark and presented this workshop.

Workshop Description: Mathematical word problems and the resulting problem solving can be very difficult for students not fluent in the language of instruction. All students must understand mathematical concepts within a context of language, but for second language learners that context can delay understanding of mathematical concepts. Many nations find themselves confronted with immigrant and refugee populations entering public school systems who are poor mathematical problem solvers, and a lack of language skills make it difficult to bring them up to the appropriate academic level.

Within this context, Dr. Greg Ponce, a researcher with Valle Imperial Mathematics, developed a strategy to help students unpack the mathematics embedded in word problems that not only promotes mathematics, but supports English language development both orally and in writing. Reasoning that if language impediments to understanding such as vocabulary, grammar, and spelling could be dealt with first, then English language learners would be able to more fully develop and use skills to solve math word problems. Dr. Ponce’s research indicates that both mathematical problem solving and second language acquisition skills increased as a result of utilizing the new strategy.

The strategy consists of creating word problems in which deliberate mistakes are made in spelling and grammar. Students look at the problem and decide how to write the problem correctly. An oral discussion takes place to correct mistakes and build vocabulary and an understanding of what is asked in the problem. Students then solve the math problem and discuss related strategies. This process takes place within a ten to twenty minute time frame each day.

Click here for workshop description, agenda, and sample problems.

This document is in Adobe Acrobat "PDF" format. To download Acrobat Reader, click here.

published in: Valle Imperial Math
presented at: 10th Annual International Congress on Mathematical Education
published: July 2004
posted to site: 08/19/2004