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Supporting Language and Math

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Drawing attention to supporting the math learning of dual language learners (DLLs) provides an opportunity for teacher educators to engage participants in exploring in-depth the relationship between language and mathematics in early learning settings. This resource highlights DREME TE materials that can be used in a variety of ways to support a focus on language and math.

by Angela Chan Turrou and Karen Recinos

Ideas for Engaging Participants around Select Resources

In this resource, we highlight a select set of DREME TE resources that can be used to bring focus to supporting the mathematics learning of DLLs. We briefly describe each resource below and provide suggestions about how you might engage participants around each resource. Many of the suggestions would be productive for small group and partner conversations. 

We encourage you to consider how some of these resources can be used in combination with each other to support participants in your varied settings. Perhaps some could be assigned as a pre-reading or asynchronous assignment; others could be done during class sessions or professional development meetings. If you have already engaged your participants in one of these resources, you might consider revisiting that resource with a new lens of supporting DLLs. 

DLLs and Math in PreK

DLLs and Math in PreK provides a list of suggestions about how to make math meaningful in the classroom. Read through this resource and consider these reflection questions: Which of these suggestions about making math meaningful resonate the most with you, and why? Which suggestions encourage you to try something differently in your teaching?

Connecting Home and School Mathematics

Connecting Home and School Mathematics explores a variety of ways to make home-school connections to enrich your teaching. Watch this video (located at the bottom of this resource) of a mother and her daughter setting up a pretend birthday picnic and conversing primarily in Spanish. Consider and discuss one or more of the reflection questions:

  • What mathematical concepts did you notice occurring through this mother-child interaction?
  • What other ways do you think families naturally incorporate math in their daily lives?
  • How can you incorporate the math practices and life experiences of families into your teaching practice?

Math Thinking Conversations

Math Thinking Conversations provides guidance about how to learn the most about children’s mathematical thinking. Read through this resource, focusing in particular on the “Have you captured as much as you can?” section. What implications do you see for learning the most about the mathematical thinking of DLLs?

DLLs: Assessing Geometry and Spatial Relations

DLLs: Assessing Geometry and Spatial Relations highlights the challenge of assessment because much of how we assess children’s mathematical understandings is language-heavy. This is particularly evident in the domain of geometry and spatial relations, but also important to consider across other math content. After reading this resource, consider the following questions:

  • Which ideas to support assessment resonated with you the most? Why?
  • One specific idea is to encourage to use familiar words (like slide). What other familiar (not necessarily math-specific) words might you hear children say as they are describing shape and spatial relations?

“Children’s Words Measure Up” Vignette

“Children’s Words Measure Up” Vignette features a conversation between two teachers about one of their students, Zobeir, and his use of the word “bigger”. Although the vignette does not specify whether Zobeir is an emerging bilingual student, this vignette cautions against a strict focus on the “right” vocabulary word as children are engaging with mathematical ideas. Read through this vignette and consider: What implications do you see for supporting the mathematics learning of children in general, and specifically DLLs?

What Do You Notice?

What Do You Notice? is an activity that many early childhood educators like to use in learning settings. The activity prompts children to, in a very open, inviting, and communal way, simply talk about what they notice about an image presented to them. Read through this resource and try this activity with your prospective and practicing teachers (even better if you have the opportunity to do this with children first!). After engaging in the activity, support participants debrief the learning opportunities available for children, especially DLLs. Focus your conversation in particular on the variety of ideas, words, gestures, and movements children might contribute to this activity. 

Concluding Thoughts

Attending to language is critical as we consider how to best support the mathematics learning of young children. Our hope is that engaging prospective and practicing teachers in a variety of resources, like the ones featured above, can support early childhood educators to find out more about the diverse linguistic resources that children bring to learning settings, to better support the learning of all children and in particular, dual-language learners.

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