February 1, 2021 Jim Ewing

4 Tools to Meet the Needs of ELs in Math

Tool #1: Boost Math Mindsets for ELs

Boaler’s (2016) bestseller book discusses the importance of boosting the math mindset of each student. Students should be passionate about math and believe that they can be successful if they work hard (Ewing, 2020). Not all ELLs learn the same way, but below are three strategies to boost ELLs’ math mindsets.

Use culturally relevant objects. Using manipulatives empowers ELLs by facilitating them to explain mathematical concepts (Maldonado, Turner, Dominguez, & Empson, 2009). Furthermore, we can choose objects and manipulatives that are culturally relevant for ELLs. For example, “frijoles” (beans) can be used as counters to engage Hispanic students (Ewing, 2020). 

Celebrate successful ELLs. ELLs will believe that they are capable in math if they see other people that look them doing math successfully. They need positive role models. After hearing about successful mathematicians similar to them, ELLs will believe that they too can be successful.

Offer opportunities to speak in their own language. In order to boost mindsets, ELLs have to enjoy doing math. Thus, we can occasionally allow them to solve problems in their own language. Of course we want them to learn English, but if we overcorrect them, they will withdraw and not enjoy doing math.