The Problem with Math Is English: A Language-Focused Approach to Help Students Develop a Deeper Understanding of Mathematics

Problem with Math coverHas this happened to you? A student solves a math problem but cannot explain how he or she reached the correct answer. For teachers, helping students make the leap to truly understanding a mathematical concept can be challenging. What if teachers took a different approach? What if they looked at math from a different perspective, and didn’t see the subject as just numbers and procedures?

That’s what SEDL program associate Concepción Molina suggests in his new book The Problem With Math Is English: A Language-Focused Approach to Helping All Students Develop a Deeper Understanding of Mathematics.

Molina shows teachers that there are inherent problems with the way language, representation and symbols are used in teaching and learning mathematics and offers a new, language-focused approach. He does this by providing the tools needed to help students understand the underlying concepts of math.

Published in partnership with Jossey-Bass and with editorial support from SEDL communications associate Joni Wackwitz,  the book illustrates conceptual-level mathematics by using a multitude of perspectives. It illustrates the importance of language, symbolism, and representation in a way that enables teachers to use this knowledge to deepen the level of their students’ understanding.

Through purposeful problems and activities, The Problem with Math emphasizes major attributes of conceptual understanding, offers simple yet deep definitions of key terms, and provides an insightful interpretation of mathematics.

“I’ve seen math frustrate so many students, especially English Language Learners,” says Molina. “I wanted to give teachers a new approach because traditional instruction does not focus on math as a unique language that any student can learn—students just need the proper guidance.”