Springboard Project: Improving Secondary Mathematics Instruction for English-Language Learners

As a future math teacher, I can’t avoid all of those foreboding headlines.


These articles often pit the United States, against nations such as Finland, South Korea, or China. However, there’s a key difference between the United States and these other countries – the United States is far more diverse. This diversity is great in many ways, but it also presents a challenge for teachers – they must figure out how to teach in a classroom where the students may not even speak Standard English. English-Language Learners (ELLs) comprise 14.3% of New York City’s student population.

There is a belief that math is a “universal language,” that ELL students may not require assistance in the math classroom in the same way that they do in other content areas. However, both with the language of mathematical procedures, as well as the emphasis placed on word problems in standardized state tests (such as the New York Regents), a working knowledge of the English language is necessary.

With my springboard project, I sought to figure out what factors cause frustration in the math classroom, and then I looked at different techniques currently used by educators to reach ELL students. Hopefully, I can take these lessons with me, as I move forward with my goal of becoming a math teacher in the New York City public school classroom.