Week 2: Language and Math
From problem solving to procedures, the idea that mathematics learning is linked to language acquisition appears inherently true as so much of what we do in mathematics is embedded in language. With that being said entering the classroom with strong content knowledge maybe just one facet of your instructional practice, another piece that practicioners must consider is how to provide students with the linguistic proficiency that is needed for mathematics achievement. Language is a tool that organizes one's thinking about a concept and is essential when it comes to mathematical reasoning. How can one explain their thinking or check the validity of their work when they lack the language to make sense of what they are doing. Whether a student is monolingual, billingual or semilingual (lacking first language proficiency) language proficiency is essential for achievement and this component of instruction must be addressed.
Using the lens of Cognitive Theory the idea that information is stored in schemas implies that meaningful learning is essential for students to recall and remember information that is conveyed in the classroom. For the English language learner this can be a more complex task as students often do not have the background knowledge to support them in learning mathematics content and skills.
Scaffolding is an essential part of the process and requires thoughtful planning and individualized instruction. Furthermore teachers need to give students the opportunity to practice and rehearse their new learning otherwise the information will decay or be forgotten. The information processing theory reminds us that students must practice and rehearse new learning in order to recall it. Invariably the idea of multiple representation must be embedded in a teacher's practice as this approach will allow the learner to expand their foundational knowledge, develop more indepth understanding and expand their schemas which will enable students to meet lower lever cognitive demand tasks such as recalling and understanding. When this is achieved students will have the capacity to meet more challenging tasks and persist when they encounter disequilibrium.