Effects of Mathematics Instruction in English on ELL Second Grade Students Term Paper

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Mathematics Instruction in English on ELL Second Grade Students

J. Elizabeth Estevez

Educ2205I-Content Research Seminar

Mathematics is a powerful tool for interpreting the world. Research has shown that for children to learn how to use mathematics to organize, understand, compare, and interpret their experiences, mathematics must be connected to their lives. Such connections help students to make sense of mathematics and view it as relevant. There has, however, been controversy with regard to children from non-English backgrounds and the best ways to get them to make those connections. Questions are raised regarding how to instruct these children who are referred to as English language learners (ELL's). Should they initially be taught in their native language with gradual exposure to English in language classes, or should they be immersed in English as early as possible. Based upon ideas presented in research studies and my own ideas as a former bilingual teacher, I decided it important enough to investigate whether mathematics instruction in English is truly effective in the second grade bilingual classroom, and if so, to what extent. Although no single piece of research validates the claim of any "best way" to teach mathematics to ELL students, collectively it can be determined instruction in English during the early stages of language development may be beneficial.

The purpose of the research study will be to examine the effectiveness of English instruction of mathematics on second grade ELL students as compared to the effectiveness of instruction in their native language. The results of the study should help educators and administrators make an informed decision as to which approach is most effective and appropriate for these students at their current levels.


P.S. 189 is located at 2580 Amsterdam Avenue, at 189th street. The school forms part of Community Board District 6, located in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and it provides services for neighborhood children from grade levels Pre-K through Five. The neighborhood surrounding the school is a very peaceful one. There are very few disruptions during school hours that are from 8:20a.m. To 2:45p.m. PS 189 has a student population of 1,480 and ninety seven percent of this population is made of Hispanic children of which 38.5% are English Language Learners. The remaining three percent is made up of different nationalities that include African-Americans, and other racial and ethnic backgrounds. The school reflects a high concentration of poverty, educational need, and overcrowded conditions. The school has a staff of 94 teachers, 27 paraprofessionals, 3 family workers, 23 school aides, and another 8 professionals that include administrators. The teachers responsible for the children's learning have different backgrounds the majority of which are Hispanic. Other backgrounds include White Americans, African-Americans, and Asians.

The school built a new annex, to expand the old building. This was necessary in order to accommodate the overcrowded conditions due to the large number of students in the community. It was opened in 1999 for kindergarten and first graders. The annex walls are painted in bright colors. The hallways are decorated with students work, and one can get a sense of the good working environment that exists there. The kindergarten classrooms all have lavatories for the children's convenience. The annex is definitely designed with the students' specific needs in mind.

PS 189 tries to keep all the classes in the same floor as their grade level. All of the second graders are on the second floor, the third graders in the third floor, and so forth. This to me seems like a pretty good idea because each grade level has its own curriculum to follow. It's easier for teachers to help each other and share their ideas when they are within reach. It's also a good idea because in the lower grades there is a lot more of activity and noise than in the upper grades. By keeping the younger kids on their own floors there will be fewer distractions.

At PS 189, parent involvement is encouraged and the home/school partnership is strong. Parents are appropriately informed, in their respective native languages of school issues and upcoming events. The school offers weekly workshops on parenting and curriculum topics and a family literacy program is offered weekly after school. The school has an active and supportive PTA. They also have a Parent Room with a Parent Library. Parent involvement includes participation on school committees, as trained volunteers and assistance with fund raising and field trips.

The Arts play an integral part in the development and enrichment of the school's academic program. The school stresses Arts Education through visual arts, an orchestra, a junior and senior choir, and participation in the National Dance Institute. Through these programs, the students are given the opportunity to participate and celebrate their cultural backgrounds.

Directly across the street from the school is a newly renovated park named Rouhl Walbourg. This park is accessible for the teachers at PS 189. Teachers can take their class to this park so that they can investigate nature or to find natural resources they can take back to the classroom. Many teachers use this park for their lessons about the community's history.

There are 11 second grade classrooms at PS189 of which one is "bilingual" meaning all areas are taught in the student's native language and English is instructed through ESL, another "transitional" where all content areas are taught in English and one period of language arts is to be taught in Spanish, the remaining 8 classes are mainstream. This is exactly the same for all the other grades in the school. There is one bilingual and one transitional class in each level.

This year I am teaching in a "mainstream" class, where all of my instruction is done in English. There are 27 students in my class and all are of Latino descent. Within this group I have 8 students who are pulled out to receive ESL. These students were either opted out by their parents or misplaced by the administration, and haven't passed the Language Assessment Battery (LAB). Then I have another 3 students who do not receive ESL services because they passed the LAB, but who cannot function in the classroom due to their strong limitations with the academic use of the English language. Out of the 27 students in my classroom there are only 16 students who actually belong in a mainstream environment. These students are basically the only ones who have a decent and fair shot at being successful and reaching the mandated standards. The others are constantly struggling and falling behind. Being a facilitator in this type of environment where there are so many different cognitive and proficiency levels within a group is extremely difficult and challenging.

My class shares the floor with the second graders. On this floor each classroom has a bulletin board outside of the room. Just by looking at these bulletin boards anyone will be able to tell what the students are learning and the theme being covered. All of the second grade teachers cooperate to keep the floor looking great. We collaborate on culminating activities and share our ideas. Teachers within the same grade levels meet during their preparatory period at least once every two weeks to discuss their joys as well as difficulties in the classroom. I think this is great because all of students get to have the same opportunities provided to them, and they can share their experiences with each other. Each teacher adds her personal twist in her activities and the final products reflect this. Even though the activities are the same, the results are different for every class. The wonderful thing about this learning community is that the students walk away with the same content knowledge, but apply that knowledge in their individual ways.


According to the written information provided to me by my principal, PS 189's educational philosophy is "to provide every child with a comprehensive educational program to meet individual needs so that children grow to their fullest potential and become independent, life-long learners." Their goal for English Language Learners (ELLs) is "to implement instructional programs designed to help English Language Learners meet and/or exceed high academic standards, thereby empowering them to become productive citizens in a multicultural/multilingual society. Our belief is that when a child develops two languages it encourages greater mental flexibility and speed in processing information."

Many distinctive features are indicative of this educational philosophy. Amongst these features are several special academic programs that the school offers to its students. These programs enhance students' learning and lead them to high academic achievement.

For instance, the bilingual program at PS 189 is designed to ensure that all students successfully complete the required course of study for all grade levels. The bilingual programs emphasize learning experiences and activities in the children's native languages. PS 189 bases its bilingual programs in the New York City's "Transitional model." The model is "transitional" in the sense that their primary goal for ELL's students is for them to progress from their native…

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