Content Areas and 2nd
Language Learners
• Often placed in grade-level math before
other subject areas because “don’t need
language.” Flawed idea.
• Skills in listening, speaking, reading and
writing are necessary for math.
• Examples:
– Vocabulary
• Highly specific
• Lacks Redundancy
• Words with multiple meanings
– Table, area, operation, problem, power, plot
Math continued…
• Math Grammar Structures
Add to
Subtract from
Multiply by
Divide by
“Take away from means “subtract from”
“Decreased by” means “subtract from”
“Increased by” means “add to”
“2 is greater than 4”
“five times as high as…”
Math Continued
– Notation is different
• Division – Other languages, Divisor and Dividend on top,
Quotient and answer (with remainder) below
• Dates
– In Spanish and some other languages the day is written
• Decimals are indicated by a period in English and a
comma in many other languages. Commas used in
English may be indicated by periods in many other
– Spanish/German 4.000 dollars
English 4,000 dollars
– Encounter problems with word problems
• Reading comprehension + computation = difficulty
• Math concepts are sequential (need to know how to add
before being able to subtract) , lack context and have
little visual support
• Language used to express
– “If-then” statements
– Cause and effect
– A lot of new vocabulary (tools used,
processes explained)
• Some of the vocabulary has multiple
– Table, kingdom, power, work
• Use of demonstrations and pictures
to show experiments aids in
Social Studies
• Vocabulary can have multiple
meanings: power, subjects
• Volume of reading that is abstract
• Often requires that generalizations
are derived from detailed
• Relationships are complex.
Social Studies
Prior knowledge is often assumed.
Many abstract concepts
Volume of writing required.
Can be interesting to students of
other cultures
• Provides opportunities to incorporate
diverse student perspectives and
• Volume of reading and writing required.
• Background knowledge often doesn’t fit
with that of second language learners.
• Unusual language such as poetry or old
• Can be interesting to students of other
• Provides opportunities to incorporate
diverse student perspectives and
Make Math More
• Increase use of visuals to get
meaning across
• Increase use of manipulatives
• Use drama
• Use demonstrations
• Uses repetition
• Integrate TPR
Total Physical Response
• Students demonstrate
understanding with a physical action:
– Moves an object form one place to
– Points to an object
– Circles the correct answer
– Draws a picture
– Acts out the answer
– Matches items
Include More Higher Order
• Require basic calculation tasks to get to
the solution of a more complex problem
• Look for patterns
• Construct tables using data
• Rewrite the question or solution
• Explain a solution orally, in writing, or
using pictures or diagrams
• Begin problem solving as early as pre-K
and use problem solving skills often
throughout the curriculum

Slide 1