Literature Review #seaccr

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Literature Review

Our school district has recently adopted the Dual Language Enrichment model (DLE) from Gomez and Gomez.  It was originally developed in 1995 and has since spread to over 450 schools across three states.  In fact, some of the staff from my school traveled to Texas last year to observed a couple of elementary schools, which also use the DLE model.  My school is implementing the DLE model in grades Pre-K through 6.  However, I want to determine, do the strategies used by the DLE model help my middle school English Language Learners (ELL) succeed in math?  The literature I read did not focus primarily on the DLE model, but did implement strategies to help ELL students. 

In Mathematics: Strategies for Teaching Limited English Proficient (LEP) Students, the Virginia Department of Education wanted to provide their teachers with effective strategies for differentiating instruction for their limited English proficient (LEP) students.  Because of the increased federal accountability requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), the state incorporated the Mathematics Standards of Learning and the English Language Proficiency (ELP Standards of Learning in daily instruction.  They felt that implementing these strategies would increase the likelihood of LEP student success in the math classroom.  For language development to occur, students must receive meaningful instruction a little beyond their comprehension level in an environment that promotes little to no anxiety.  Some classroom management strategies include: using consistent formats for assignments, worksheets and tests; seat LEP students purposefully; give step-by-step directions and have students repeat them aloud to ensure understanding; give LEP students more time to process questions and think of an answer; allow LEP students to talk to a peer in their native language to clear up misunderstandings; and construct bilingual, picture dictionaries for classroom use.  Instructional strategies include:  integrating listening, speaking, reading and writing into the math class; using modeling and speaking your thought process aloud while solving problems on the overhead; having students explain their thinking process aloud to a classmate while solving problems; teaching students to identify key words in word problems.  Teachers should use a variety of modes of instruction, such as multi-sensory lessons, visuals, hands-on activities and use real-life problem-solving situations to teach new concepts.

Matthew Winsor is a math teacher in the state of California who wanted to help his ELL students.  In his article, Bridging the Language Barrier in Mathematics, he found three similarities between students learning a new language and students learning mathematics.  These two groups of students learn more effectively when they write to communicate what they are learning, learn in groups, and their learning is set in context.  He created an approach, which he called Mathematics as a Second Language (MSL).  The main components of MSL include vocabulary activities, journals, group work, and projects.  One vocabulary strategy was Word Squares.  His students divide an index card into four quadrants, where they write the mathematical term in their own language, also in English, the definition of the mathematical term and include an example of the concept.  This requires more than just simple memory of a textbook definition.  His groups were made up of students with different language ability in order to improve the group’s mathematical communication.  He suggests that the groups be changed periodically so that students do not become complacent in their groups.  He chose to use journals to help ELL students learn mathematics and the language of mathematics at the same time.  Students were allowed to write in their journal in their own language but were required to write mathematical terms in English.  This helped the students to associate the English term with the concept they already had in their minds in their native language.  Projects gave the students the sense that they were not really doing math.  The projects focused on real-life topics, such as the stock market, which engaged and motivated the students to learn the mathematics necessary to complete the project.  This also allowed students to see the importance of mathematics in their own lives.  One last strategy was the use of a bilingual aid in the classroom.  The aid would walk around the classroom asking students questions and motivating them in their work.

In English Language Learners and Math Achievement: A Study of Opportunity to Learn and Language Accommodation, Abedi et al. investigated how the students’ opportunity to learn in the classroom and varying testing accommodations impacted their mathematics performance.  When studying the student’s opportunity to learn, the authors also indicated that the teacher’s knowledge of the content had a significant effect on their students.  They found studies that suggested that ELL students have more difficulty responding to test items that are complex in language.  Accommodations to tests can be specific modifications to the test itself or to the test procedure.  Modifications to the test may include assessment in the student’s home language, modification of complex language, and embedding glossaries into the test for non-content vocabulary.  Modifications to the test procedure include allowing extended time for the test, having the test administrator read directions aloud and allowing administration by a familiar person.  Language modification can reduce linguistic complexity but should maintain the construct of the test.  This may include shortening sentences, removing unnecessary expository material, using familiar words and grammar that is more easily understood, and using concrete rather than abstract formats.  The results of the study showed that the student’s opportunity to learn did affect student performance, but modifications to the test did not.

The State Education Department of the University of the State of New York attempted to review other literature on instructional strategies for secondary ELL students in Promising Instructional Practices for Secondary English Language Learners (7-12).  The authors of this document found that even though ELL students are still developing proficiency in English, they bring their own powerful native language into the classroom.  They are also still expected to meet all of the learning standards as their English-speaking peers.  Most of the literature reviewed dealt with Language Arts content.  However, one piece of literature conducted a case study on ESL math and science high school students.  In the ESL Math and Science for High School Students: Two Case Studies (Spanos, 1992), 20 students participated in a math study using a program called the Word Problem Procedure (WPP).  WPP engages the students and gives them practice in reading, writing, speaking and listening in their math class.  It encourages ELL students to think aloud when solving problems.  Another study, Amplifying Autonomy and Collective Conversation: Using Video iPods to Support Mathematics Teacher Learning (Morris and Easterday, 2008), focused on using technology to improve algebraic thinking of their ELL students.  Teachers guided their students in using higher order thinking strategies while learning mathematics.  Students would make guesses and inferences, explain their thinking processes, and use various examples and illustrations as they worked through problems.  They recorded all of this using video iPods.

Howard and Christian (2002) discussed the implementation of two-way immersion programs at the elementary level.  Two-way immersion (TWI) is an educational approach that integrates English speakers with native speakers of another language.  The content and literacy instruction in these programs is done in both languages for both groups of students.  It is different than the DLE model for two reasons:  two languages are used for instruction and two groups of students are involved (English speakers and language minority students from a single language background).  Some criteria for success in a TWI are focusing instruction on the same core academic curriculum as their peers in other programs, participation in instructional activities, and positive interactions amount students using cooperative learning strategies.  Some instructional strategies include sheltered instruction, active/discovery learning, and cooperative learning.

In conclusion, I discovered many great strategies that others have used to help their ELL students succeed in the math classroom.  I hope to implement many of these same strategies in my own classroom and hope that I have some of the same successes.



 Abedi, J.; Courtney, M.; Leon, S.; Kao, J.; & Azzam, T. (n.d.).  English Language Learners and Math Achievement:  A Study of Opportunity to Learn and Language Accommodation.  National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing.

 Carrasquillo, Angela, M.D.; et al (n.d.).  Promising Instructional Practices for Secondary English Language Learners.  Office of Bilingual Education and Foreign Language Studies.

Howard, E. R., & Christian, D. (2002). Two-way immersion 101: Designing and Implementing a two-way Immersion Education Program at the Elementary Level. Santa Cruz: Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence, University of California, Santa Cruz.

Mathematics: Strategies for Teaching Limited English Proficient (LEP) Students.  April 2004.  Virginia Department of Education: Division of Instruction.

Morris, K., Easterday, J. (2008).  Amplifying Autonomy and Collective Conversation: Using Video iPods to Support Mathematics Teacher Learning.  Issues in Teacher Education, Volume 17, No 2.

Spanos, G. (1990).  ESL Math and Science for High School Students: Two Case Studies.  Retrieved from

Winsor, Matthew S. (2008).  Bridging the Language Barrier in Mathematics.  Mathematics Teacher. Vol. 101. No. 5.  The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


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