Math and ELLs

Of all the subjects, math seems like one that ELLs should flourish in – variables and numbers don’t change between languages. However, look at the following question, a typical word problem that one might find on the Algebra I Regents in New York State.


For an ELL, odd concepts such as “babysitting,” “school commitments,” or even the name “Edith” may be a source of confusion. Suddenly, a student may spend more time trying to figure out what these words mean, instead of focusing on the mathematical task at hand.


With the additional factor of math-specific vocabulary, an ELL student is left with even more to decode.


A significant chunk of this problem is gone now – a source of frustration for many ELL students as they must work through math programs.