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Positioning Multilingual Learners for Success in Mathematics

NCSM: Leadership in Mathematics Education and TODOS: Mathematics for ALL (TODOS) prioritize policies and practices that position multilingual learners (i.e., children learning mathematics in languages that differ from their students’ first languages) so that they can access, engage, and thrive in mathematics education. Accomplishing this will require a systemic approach and investments that influence policies and practices. These include professional development, infrastructure, curriculum, family/community engagement, language development, and mathematics teaching, learning and assessment. We acknowledge that: 

• The use of students’ first language is a human right (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000) and should be promoted in the mathematics classroom; • Mathematics is a human activity; 

• Race, class, culture, language, and their intersections play key roles in the teaching and learning of mathematics (see The Mo(ve)ment to Prioritize Antiracist Mathematics: Planning for This and Every School Year); 

• Multilingual learners should be viewed as students who possess knowledge, strengths, and resources (i.e., asset-based rather than deficit-based lens); 

• Every mathematics teacher is a language teacher — particularly the academic language used to formulate and communicate mathematics learning (Lager, 2006); and 

• Leaders and teachers from mathematics and second-language acquisition should work collaboratively to accomplish this work, in cooperation with families.

More Resources to Explore

Listening to Learn (Marilyn Burns) We do it in reading, why not in math? Ask teachers how they assess reading comprehension, and they report that one-on-one