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Teaching Mathematics and Science to English Language Learners: The Experience of Four New Jersey Elementary Schools


This paper explores the challenges of teaching math and science to English language learners (ELLs) and some approaches to addressing those challenges identified in four schools serving ELLs working with the New Jersey Math Science Partnership. We first describe some of the challenges of teaching ELLs and the variety of practices used by ELL teachers. We then explore three factors affecting those practices: the knowledge and beliefs of ELL teachers, district policies, and the impact of federal and state testing policies as interpreted locally. We suggest that the more successful teachers have a command of the academic as well as social language of the students they teach. Moreover, local responses to national policies may be increasing attention to mathematics but they may be encouraging the use of instructional strategies like vocabulary drill that may not have lasting learning benefits.