Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Language acquisition through DMIC maths

For learners to participate in DMIC (Developing mathematical inquiry communities) maths successfully, they require the language to be able to understand a story which launches the mathematical problem, they require the language to be able to participate in discussions (through listening, asking for clarification, and sharing their own ideas) and they require the language to be able to understand the thinking of their classmates or the teacher. Finally, learners require the language to be able to successfully work independently for a length of time when they are not working with their DMIC group and the teacher.

Up until now, my focus for inquiry has been on those learners who are working towards Early Stage 6, where they are beginning to use a wider range of strategies and are beginning to use multiplicative thinking to solve mathematical problems. Over the last couple of weeks of term 1 and into the first 4 weeks of term 2, I have started to notice that those learners who are working towards Early Stage 6 are able to learn in two distinct ways. They are able to be the teachers of those who are using lower level strategies and they are able to be the students by learning from those in their group who are using higher level strategies.

However there are a group of learners (at a range of different levels) who do not talk much in their problem solving groups. They may not be talking for a range of reasons. Maybe they do not understand the story or maths problem so don't know how they can contribute. Maybe they see the other students as more knowledgeable so don't see the point in contributing. Perhaps they are quite happy sitting back and allowing the others to do the work for them. Or perhaps they want to contribute but don't have the language to be able to do so. In any of these ways, there is a problem. As the teacher, I am finding it challenging to know how to best assess these learners and keep track of their maths learning when I am not hearing them talk. Moreover, it tends to be these same learners who are challenged to complete their learning independently when they are not working with me so often I am not seeing much independent learning to gauge how they are doing. 

This compares to previous years where I have had a strong gauge on these learners through meeting in small ability groups. Through these small ability groups, it was possible to distinguish varying levels of ability to mathematically reason and share thinking with an explicitly more differentiated teaching strategy. 

- This booklet gives an idea of the amount of vocabulary we are expecting learners to know.
- This booklet gives a lot of ideas around vocabulary acquisition in mathematics

So where to from here?

- I need to be making a note of the key learners who I want to target in terms of developing their language acquisition so that they can successfully contribute to the maths learning through DMIC maths.
- I need to be deciding on a way to assess these learners. At this moment in time, these are the learners who I will be testing through GLOSS so I have a clear idea as to where they are and any progress they have made.
- I need to be thinking of how I can better differentiate for these learners to support them. Perhaps I could be placing these learners into the same DMIC group to encourage some of them to talk. That is, I should ensure I am not putting these learners with a very vocal student otherwise they may not get a word in.
- I need to be encouraging these learners to explain their thinking during independent learning time through such tools as screencastify.
- I need to be gifting vocabulary for different areas of maths.