During my first year at Iowa State University in 2015, I had a chance to apply for an internal grant, which was designated for developing an innovative new course. My dear colleague, Dr. Christa Jackson, suggested for me to create an online course on teaching mathematics to Emergent Bilinguals, given my research expertise. Prior to this, there was no such course in the field that integrated the following three crucial components: teaching, mathematics, and Emergent Bilinguals.
With Dr. Jackson’s encouragement, I started to do research on developing an effective online course for teachers and met with Dr. Katy Swalwell, who had successfully launched a new online course in social studies education, Teaching and Learning Iowa History. Dr. Swalwell’s online course was developed and delivered via the learning management platform Canvas.net in a multifaceted structure for preservice teachers, in-service teachers, and others with interest in Iowa’s history. For preservice teachers who are enrolled in a university-based teacher preparation program or graduate students who are interested in this topic, this course provides graduate-level credits for completing all modules. In-service teachers who are current or former classroom teachers, or district leaders, can choose to take this course for one, two, or three credits for renewing their teaching license in Iowa. In addition, any Canvas users who are interested in teaching mathematics for Emergent Bilinguals can come and explore the materials, although they are not mandated to submit assignments. This flexible structure appealed to me and I was eager to apply the same structure to the online course to my proposed mathematics education course.
Thankfully, Dr. Swalwell also introduced me to Clyciane Michelini, an EdTech & Distance Education Coordinator, who turned out to be a great addition to my course development and management team. With Ms. Michelini and Dr. Jackson’s help, I formed a team to develop this online course. My doctoral advisee, Ricardo Martinez, also joined this team and co-authored this ebook (he has now become Dr. Martinez, a faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln). Our idea was to design an innovative and interactive online course aiming to provide concrete and applicable content about teaching mathematics for culturally and linguistically diverse students. This vision of creating an equitable math education course enabled us to secure the College Human Science Innovative Teaching Initiatives grant.
The Initial Stage—
Our preparation to develop this 100% asynchronous online course took about one year. We first offered EDUC 502/593G Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners in the spring semester of 2017 through Canvas.net. The initial design of this course focused on providing not only general teaching principles but also delivering authentic strategies that teachers can apply to their classrooms. The two principles stated by Moschkovich (2010) were the central pillars of the initial design.
- Treat students’ language as a resource, not a deficit.
- Address much more than vocabulary, and support EBs’ participation in mathematical discussions as they learn English.
We chose Beyond Good Teaching (Celedon-Pattichis & Ramirez, 2012), published by NCTM, as the textbook because this edited book includes valuable contents of research-based teaching approaches to support Emergent Bilinguals and their teachers. Based on these fundamental perspectives, the initial design of the course included six modules, in addition to the orientation module as follows:
- Who are ELLs?
- Culturally Responsive Teaching
- ELL-focused Strategies
- Academic Language
- Mathematical Discussion
- ELL-focused Lesson Planning
This online course, Teaching Mathematics to English Language Learners (TM-ELL), has received a warm response and has become popular within Canvas Network. Since Canvas Network is worldwide, many mathematics and English teachers from multiple countries have enrolled in this course, and some of them have actively participated. In the summer of 2019, for instance, we had more than 500 students from over 10 countries including the Philippines, Romania, India, Venezuela, Vietnam, Morocco, Mongolia, Indonesia, Panama, Cambodia, Paraguay, and Myanmar enrolled in the TM-ELL course, and the enrollment numbers keep increasing.
The Updating Stage—
We observed how the initial course design worked for four semesters through the pre- and post- survey responses from participants. Overall, their feedback was positive in terms of learning and gaining knowledge. However, we also found some limitations in the initial design and needed to strengthen the content with respect to building culturally relevant, responsive, and sustaining classrooms. Moreover, although we love the textbook, Beyond Good Teaching, it was necessary to include more recent resources in teaching mathematics and Emergent Bilinguals. For instance, the field currently suggests using the term Emergent Bilinguals (EBs) instead of English Language Learners (García & Kleifgen, 2010).
The revision or update process began in 2019. Fortunately, we received another internal grant provided by the Iowa State University Library for updating the online course content as well as writing a digital textbook, which is this book. The focus of the course content revision was to emphasize and strengthen valuing students’ different cultures and languages. Hence, two new modules/chapters were added: Translanguaging and Community Cultural Wealth. In addition, the module on Culturally Responsive Teaching was updated to Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (CSP), which has a critical role as an umbrella framework for the entire course. The revised course consists of seven modules, and accordingly, this book has seven chapters:
- Introduction: Who are EBs?
- Chapter 1: EBs in math class
- Chapter 2: Culturally sustaining pedagogy
- Chapter 3: EB-focused strategies and challenging tasks
- Chapter 4: Power & participation in mathematical discussion
- Chapter 5: Translanguaging with a focus on word problems
- Chapter 6: Connecting mathematics to families and communities of EBs.
We hope you enjoy this book, and when you complete this book, you can fulfill the following goals:
- Identify the various needs and capabilities of EBs in learning mathematics.
- Use EBs’ own languages as a resource, not a deficit, and learn to use multiple modes of communication.
- Implement research-based strategies to teach EBs in order to maximize their learning through cognitively demanding mathematical activities and differentiate your teaching practice correspondingly to your EBs.
- Support EBs’ participation in mathematical discussions as meaningful community members while they learn English.
- Look beyond the school and connect to EBs’ parents and community to expand mathematical learning in and outside the classroom.
Ji Yeong I
Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA