It is amazing the things that the brain can do and how the brain adapts to perform calculations. One important aspect of learning math is the language. It doesn’t matter how fluent is a person in a second language, the person will make calculation in their first language. (Sousa, 2015). The author of this paper learned math in Spanish. He also performed most of his calculation in Spanish. It takes him a longer because he needs to translate from Spanish to English and vice versa.
According to Sousa (2015), we need to be careful about assuming if a student has a problem with language will have problems with calculations, and vice versa because language and mathematical reasoning areas are in two distinct parts of the brain. Taking this into account, the purpose of this research is to answer the following question: Which strategies can be used to help English-Language Learners (ELL) to be successful in Mathematics? Review of the Literature This literature review addresses two primary strategies: code-switching and the use of technology in the classroom.
According to Zazkis (2000), “code switching can be described as alternation in use of more than one language in a single speech act. ” (p. 38). Code-switching is common in schools where there is a high population of Hispanic students in the U. S. However, is not limited to the U. S. Other countries like Malaysia, Malta and Nigeria, also report the use of code-switching in their classrooms. The use of technology in math classrooms can help students to improve their learning and can help students to achieve their goals, especially for ELL students, because the use of technology could be a critical aspect of their success.
Different technology strategies include the use of laptops, video games, interactive whiteboards, among others (Freeman & Crawford, 2008; Kim & Chang, 2010; Lopez, 2010). Code-Switching (Language) Zazkis (2000) mentioned that code-switching by teachers has been used to translate or clarify instructions, reformulate and model appropriate mathematical language, and has helped students to seek clarification and to express their ideas. It is critical the language that students receive the education because it can enhance or impede the quality of instruction (Jegede, 2011).
According to Neo and Heng (2012), the type and level of classes are two important factors when code-switching was used in a mathematics classroom. On the other hand, the location and type of school do not play a significant role. (Neo & Heng, 2012). These research can help this study to look for strategies that teacher can use to help students to be successful in math. Is not only to help students to be successful in the class, but also to help them to have great success on standardized tests. U. S. ve standardized in English, but using code-switching can help students to remember vocabulary and concepts from the classroom while they are taking the exams.
Code-switching is not only common in the United States. Other countries where English is the method of instruction, also report the use of code-switching in their classroom as a strategy to improve student success and achievement. Neo and Heng (2012) report their findings in schools in Malaysia. Also, these authors report their finding of qualitative data quantitatively.
Jegede (2011) indicates the use of code-switching in Nigeria, where they have children from different socio-cultural and linguistics backgrounds, which results in multilingual classrooms. Farrugia (2013) presents the use of code-switching in Malta. Students receive their instruction in Maltese until they got into high school, where they receive the teaching in Maltese or English, resulting in the use of code-switching. The main reason for the use of code-switching is because the textbooks for math, science, economics and other secondary school classes are only available in English.
Different Participants and Countries using Code-Switching The type of participants within the studies is different. Zazkis (2000) show the use of code-switching of participants but using English in their everyday words. The teacher in the research took advantage of the vocabulary that students use every day and guides them to use mathematical language. The study shows an example of the angles of a triangle. A student said that there were 180 degrees in a triangle.
The teacher guides the students by asking questions to rephrase or redefine the definition until they used the correct terminology: “The sum of the measures of the interior angles in any triangle equals 180 degrees. ” (Zazkis, 2000, p. 40). Jegede (2011) took a sample of five teachers from five different schools and 50 students (ten from each school). In this research, the code-switching is between English and two dialects: Yoruba and Hausa. On the other hand, Neo and Heng (2012) use a method to collect the sample that includes rural and urban schools, school level, and from two different school districts.
Here, the authors make their research as a whole class. Technology and Curriculum Freeman and Crawford (2008) mentioned that ELL students are failing in K-12 Mathematics. The authors recognized that the number of ELL students, which Spanish is their mother tongue, is increasing in the U. S. However, there is a limited number of teachers who are experts in working with this population. Even when English is a universal language, math has its technical language. Math contains two primary “languages”: words (vocabulary) and symbols.
Students need both of them to communicate and solve math problems (Freeman & Crawford, 2008). For this reason, the authors have created the Help with English Language Proficiency (HELP) Math program for middle school students. HELP is a web supplemental curriculum with different modules. These modules assist the students to “essentialize mathematical vocabulary and concepts so that students can easily understand and retain the content. ” (Freeman & Crawford, 2008, p. 13). The tool can help students to enhance their vocabulary by having the words in Spanish and English.
Having students working on this web-based curriculum can prepare them with the necessary tools before going to High School. In their conclusion, Crawford and Freeman (2008) said that differentiation and individualization are the keys to middle school student success, and teachers need to give the same opportunities to students who are not proficient in English. If students do not succeed, the final result will be a high level of dropouts, and then, economic and societal disadvantages.
Teachers have the power to make improvement in their teaching strategies and take into consideration that the “educational attainment for English-language learners a societal imperative. ” (Freeman & Crawford, 2008, p. 18). Interactive Whiteboards Lopez (2010) presents the use of interactive whiteboards (IWB) to help ELL students in elementary schools. The purpose of IWB is closing the achievement gap for ELL students and students from traditional classrooms. The author collected data from benchmark test of mathematics and reading.
The use of IWB help teachers to give direct instructions to students and that contribute to reducing misinterpretations that students can have in school. The author found that students in classrooms with IWB technology in Digital Learning Classrooms met their learning needs, resulting in “academic success for ELL students in US public schools. ” (Lopez, 2010, p. 914). It is critical that teachers get professional development in this technology to help ELL students (Lopez, 2010). Math Video Games Kim and Chang (2010) explore the use of games for diverse students, including ELL students, gender and socio-economic status.
Kim and Chang (2010) collected data from surveys, where they ask the teacher if the students play math video games never or almost never, once or twice a month, ones or twice a week and every day or almost every day. According to Kim and Chang (2010), “when ELL students played math computer games daily, they tended to have higher math performance compared with the performance of non-ELL students who did not play games” (p. 230).
Because using a computer game also help students to interact with others, developing their social area and friendship, ELL students “overcome their limited English ability. Kim & Chang, 2010, p. 231). Analysis The four pieces of research about code-switching (Farrugia, 2013; Jegede, 2011; Neo & Heng, 2012; Zazkis, 2000) are different in the way they collect data and what they were looking. Each paper has their thesis statement. But what is more, important about these papers is that they were looking at the different uses of code-switching. Zazkis (2000) focused on code-switching within the same language, but only how to clarify a concept from everyday vocabulary to math vocabulary concepts.
Neo and Heng (2012) centered on the amount of time that code-switching occurs in the classroom using the type and level of school, and the location of the school. Jegede (2011) focused on how teachers and students used code-switching as an approach to acquire literacy and make the class meaningful. Farrugia (2013) focused on how verbs and adjectives were employed in a conversation and how to change from and informal math language to a formal way to express the ideas. All the studies focused on math classrooms. Code-switching is not only between languages but also within the same language.
Students who mother tongue is English can also perform code-switching from their everyday words. This action research can also investigate that area with students whose first language is English. Using quantitative analysis from qualitative data can be useful to see how many time this occurs in the classroom. However, for this study is not too important because will require more time and a bigger sample to make conclusions about the population. Also, it is important to take into account the socio-cultural background of each participant because the conclusions of the study can be not as accurate as it should be.
The strategy of using technology seems to be good for ELL students. Using a curriculum where students can see words in Spanish and English can help them to get the technical words needed to learn math. One important aspect of math is that students must have knowledge at each grade level. Sometimes students do not achieve this level because English is not their first language. According to Freeman and Crawford (2010), the use of math terminology can be as challenging as learning a new language. One reason is that there are many mathematical terms, (i. coefficients, hypotenuse, parabola) that are completely new to young learners. (Freeman & Crawford, 2010).
Conclusions In conclusion, code-switching it is an interesting area to investigate because this one occur within the same language, but also in different languages and socio-cultural environment. Three of the researches (Zazkis, 2000; Jegede, 2011; Neo & Heng, 2012) show that the use of code-switching does not result in a deficiency in language, but it is a useful strategy to help them to succeed.
Technology is an excellent tool that teachers can take advantage to engage students and help them to succeed. However, if the teacher does not plan accordingly, or do not receive the corresponding training, this could result in an adverse impact on students’ achievement. A recommendation for this action research includes creating math classes with ELL students and work together with the English teachers at school to help students to perform and succeed in math.