How California’s Revised Mathematics Framework Centers Multilingual Learners and Why This Matters
September 20, 2023
Guidance and Resources to Help You Prioritize Simultaneous Content, Math Practices, and Language Development
This is the second blog in a new series about the revised California Mathematics Framework that was adopted in July 2023. Check out the first blog here.
Mathematics is often affectionately called “the universal language,” but learning a new language that’s needed to understand the task while also mastering the mathematical content can be a significant challenge. This is a challenge I experienced personally as a multilingual learner and newcomer student in California public schools during an era of English-only instruction. Motivated by my own complicated student experience, I later became an elementary school teacher with an explicit goal of supporting and affirming the assets of multilingual learners in my classroom so that their language and content learning challenges were less difficult for them to tackle. I know I made progress toward this goal and that more access to aligned and evidence-based guidance and resources would have helped me to become an even more effective educator for my multilingual learner students.
The new 2023 California Math Framework is a step towards guidance for California educators to be better prepared to serve their multilingual learner students. The Framework represents significant progress in integrating the implementation of math standards with specific, integrated support for multilingual learners’ language development so that math learning becomes more accessible. A few excerpts of specific recommendations are below and many more can be found in Chapters 2, 6, and others:
- Using open tasks can enable students with a range of different learning and linguistic skills to demonstrate their initial thinking in various ways (i.e., numerically, symbolically, verbally, visually, or through physical action,) while integrating the California English Language Development (ELD) standards (Chapter 2, line 170).
- Teachers might listen to the mathematical ideas being expressed by students, noticing how students might draw on multiple language bases (i.e., translanguaging) or extra-linguistic communication, such as gesturing and using representation (Chapter 2, line 391).
- Teachers can support the progress of multilingual learners in English-only settings, in part, by drawing on students’ existing linguistic and communicative ability and making language resources available, particularly during small-group work. Children’s ability to use their home language in these early years can ensure they are able to express their knowledge and thinking and not be limited by their level of English proficiency (Chapter 6, line 182).
Many years after my own experience as a newcomer student in California schools, I am glad that necessary guidance on supporting California’s multilingual learners, including the Framework, is available for educators. Furthermore, implementing new or complex guidance is much easier when concrete resources and instructional materials with built-in multilingual supports are readily available.
If your district is ready to put Framework-aligned guidance into practice, supporting teachers with a high-quality mathematics curriculum is critical. Our Multilingual Learner Review Evidence Guide can help you select the most linguistically and instructionally supportive math instructional materials for your linguistically diverse students. The first criterion in the evidence guide is simultaneous content, math practices, and language development–crucial to all multilingual learners mastering the dual challenge of content and literacy acquisition. Combined with our educator-created reviews of K-12 mathematics programs, our evidence guide will help you to ensure that your materials support your multilingual learners’ simultaneous language and content learning.
If your district knows it can do better for your multilingual learners and is ready to take action, my advice is to not wait. Guidance and resources to support your multilingual learners are available, and the time to adopt high-quality instructional materials that support both content and language development is now.
This is the second and final blog in a new mini-series about the revised California Mathematics Framework adopted in July 2023. Additional content will be posted periodically on Calcurriculum.org.