Authored by Dr. Juvenal E. Abrego, Administration SIG Leader
Math has always been a challenging subject for many students. For English Learners, math becomes more than a challenge; it is a puzzle so difficult to decipher that it causes students to quickly experience a desire to give up. The complexity of the aforementioned lies in the lack of experiences, opportunities or exposure to help ELL students understand that Math is not difficult, but rather magical. Danielle, a math coach in VA, challenged her third, fourth and fifth grade students to develop powerful tools to transform math challenges into fun adventures. Students began by checking on their own magic tricks, which were aligned with their basic math computation skills. Once students had self-assessed their ability to add, subtract, divide or multiply; they proceeded to use small group time to quickly accelerate their math computation skills to obtain magic wands that would give them the power to develop additional tricks.
EL students were excited to show Danielle all their tricks. Some of them came up with their own flash cards, mnemonic devices and other tools that they used to demonstrate how they were quickly building their super power to be math wizards. The powerful aspect of Danielle’s math coaching story lies in the experience that she set up for her students to see math as a fun game. For EL students, Danielle’s approach is not just a fun opportunity to learn math, but a way to capitalize in day to day collaboration with peers. It also gave students their own agency to find resources that could help them remediate their weaknesses in such a way that they could continue to face additional math challenges with the certainty that they can and will be able to become successful in math if they think of each math concept as a trick to grow their power. In learning English, confidence is key. The story of Danielle’s students reminds educators that English learners are not limited by language, but rather by the opportunities that their teachers may deny to them when they don’t believe in the power of meaningful learning.