Third Grade Math

Khan Academy has this great feature where you can find out how many minutes you’ve studied each day. Mind you, I had to go into the English website to find out how to get there, but I figured it out. Since the last post, I have practiced math for about 2 hours and 48 minutes, about an hour less than a student studying math for 45 minutes a day. I am now 70% through third grade math, and it was immediately harder than basic math.

The first question I was asked in 3rd grade math looked to me something like this “rioewur nv kfdsjlf uipoiu 30 ewrwe kljl sadfas 40 knjlkj. Select all that apply: 31, 25, 35” I guessed it was asking for which numbers fell between 30 and 40. Wrong! I was stumped. So I watched the video which is there to help if you get stumped. I didn’t really make sense of it until about half way through, when, based on the pictures, I figured out that I was supposed to be rounding. Then a word popped out at me: redondear, which in hindsight, I realized was a bit of a cognate.

Redondear is about the only word I learned in Spanish this week. I’ve been awful about studying my leitner box (consider me the student who’s skipped English class all week), and interacting with word problems in math study has done nothing for my vocabulary. It’s all about comprehensible input, which most of the word problems are not. I just don’t know enough Spanish to be able to piece together what they’re saying. And if I do, I still feel so stymied by the amount of Spanish before me, that I still skip over it if I can.

The other word I learned this week? Tiburon (or perhaps tiburone), which I assume means shark because Khan academy keeps giving me pictures of sharks with instructions like “conta los tiburones.” It’s shone up enough that it’s stuck in my head. But mostly it stuck in my head because there was a picture I could attach it to. There was a story about a squirrel collecting acorns, but the word for acorns? I forgot it, probably because there were no accompanying pictures.

I’ve had a breakthrough with pictures on the the other end, while teaching math. I was explaining fractions and how to add them with numbers, which for most of my students has been fine. But one has had a lot of trouble. Then their other teacher suggested drawing out the fractions to show how one half becomes two fourths, and four eighths and so on. I did that, and at last I saw that ah-ha moment dawn. English teachers are always saying, “pictures, pictures, pictures,” but even we forget sometimes!

Takeaway for the week? Pictures, pictures, pictures. If the words don’t make sense, the student may inclined to skip over them, so provide as much visual context as possible. Sometimes, numbers are good enough, since they’re (usually) the same in any language. One of my students can often look at my mathematical examples and extrapolate how I solved the problem. But other times? Greater context is needed. Give your ESL students as much as you can.


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