Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Deborah Tidwell


English language--Study and teaching--Foreign speakers; Mathematics--Study and teaching;


One teaching approach that alleviates language barriers involves teachers using what students know and can do to develop students‟ understanding of and ability in another area. Thus, 2 teachers can promote ELLs‟ literacy development by integrating knowledge and skills ELLs have from another subject area into their literacy instruction. Specifically, teachers can integrate mathematics into literacy instruction because research suggests that ELLs often understand and successfully carry out mathematical tasks. For example, Gunning (2003) points out that ELLs tend to perform well on mathematical computations. The universality of mathematical symbols seems to promote ELLs‟ understanding of mathematics instruction although lessons may incorporate unfamiliar English that the students would not typically understand. Also, Secada (1991) asserts that ELLs perform well on mathematics problem solving tasks because their problem solving abilities expand in conjunction with their development of dual language competence. This proficiency in problem solving is crucial to ELLs‟ mathematical achievement because problem solving is the essence of “doing mathematics…[and] building understanding of mathematical concepts” (Hyde, 2006, p. 8). Through the completion of problem solving tasks, ELLs engage in visual representation of problems, hands-on manipulation of materials, and group interaction. These visual, kinesthetic, and social learning experiences provide ELLs with additional information about mathematical concepts and problems, which allows them to make sense of the mathematical language encountered in lessons. Thus, mathematical instruction adds context and meaning to the language ELLs come across in mathematics, so ELLs effectively learn mathematics concepts and problem solving behaviors. Overall, the symbolic and contextualized nature of mathematics appears to act as a mechanism for enabling ELLs to move past language barriers, increasing ELLs‟ likelihood to experience success in the area of mathematics.

Date of Award


University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

46 p. : col. ill.



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