Academic Language and Mathematics
Researchers have found that as students progress through school, the importance of language grows due to the content specificity that emerges, especially in the secondary grades, and due to the preparation of these students to enter adulthood once their schooling is completed. Even as students' instruction in various content areas becomes more in-depth and specialized, so does the terminology employed in the content. It is because of this specificity and union of language and learning that English-language learners' (ELLs') ability to comprehend and produce content-area academic language is crucial to their success. When questioning the quality of instruction ELLs are receiving in mathematics, the attention logically shifts to the pedagogical abilities of their teachers. However, historically, mathematics teachers have lacked language-acquisition knowledge and strategies necessary to adequately address the needs of linguistically diverse learners. In order to authentically promote and pursue quality mathematics education for all students, teachers of mathematics must be trained in recognizing the language demands of mathematics and in applying or developing strategies to address the nuances of the language in this subject area. The research in this study contributes to this work. This dissertation documents the effects of an intervention, woven into a secondary mathematics methods course and designed to prepare mathematics teachers to support ELLs' content and language learning. The study was based on the assumption that mathematics is much more than computations, and thus, requires a shift in the how the role of the mathematics teacher is viewed. Both qualitative and quantitative empirical evidence regarding the intervention's influence on the participants' attitudes and preparedness to teach the academic language of mathematics were generated. Twenty-nine students over the course of two years took part in this research. Five students from the second year were selected for an in-depth case study based on their range of experiences with learning other languages, interactions with linguistically diverse youth, and practicum placements for the subsequent spring semester. The larger group of preservice teachers was surveyed at the beginning and end of their enrollment in the course, and their course assignments were collected. In addition, case-study participants were interviewed at the start and completion of the semester, and their practicum-office submissions were examined. A framework to encourage pupils' acquisition of mathematical academic language is proposed. Essential outcomes indicate that the intervention not only affected the participants' beliefs and attitudes towards their own preparedness for teaching ELLs in mainstream mathematics classes, but also it imparted concrete strategies for the modification of teaching and learning experiences in the preservice teachers' future practices. The results of this study correlate to existing literature regarding linguistically responsive pedagogy and extend this theory by integrating language-acquisition strategies throughout a content-methods course for the middle- and high-school levels.