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Crafting a Bilingual Math Curriculum in Lower School

Blog Type:  Bilingualism Lower School
Date Posted:  Monday, October 22, 2018

This year marks the third year of EB’s math initiative where we have looked closely at research on dual language learning and our own practices to ensure we have an effective bilingual math curriculum.

At EB, we want to harmonize how we teach math in two languages. Our approach for teaching math uses elements of the Singapore approach including a progression from concrete (use of manipulatives like linking cubes for example) to pictorial (use of drawings, diagrams and models) to abstract. Our approach includes strong concept development so students are not just memorizing algorithms but understanding the deeper mathematical background behind each skill.

Using the tape diagram model in math in Grade 2.

Our approach also incorporates the mathematical practices from the American curriculum and the French program:

American curriculum French curriculum
1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
1. Chercher
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively
2. Raisonner
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
3. Communiquer
4. Model with mathematics
4. Modéliser
5. Use appropriate tools strategically
5. Représenter
6. Attend to precision
6. Calculer
7. Look for and make use of structure
7. Chercher
8. Look for an express regularity in repeated reasoning
8: Raisonner/ Chercher

Harmonizing the Content of the French and American Programs

At EB, we also want to harmonize what we teach in math, that is our content standards. We have developed a progression of skills across grade levels and between languages so that foundational content is covered in both languages. In addition, the unique strengths of both the French and American content standards are incorporated.

For example, the French curriculum is strong in geometry and visual and spatial reasoning, an important foundation for engineering. The American curriculum is strong in exploring fractions which research shows is an important precursor to understanding algebra. The curriculum materials we are using are both aligned to the French and American content standards and consistent with our mathematical approach.

Second graders do a daily checking during "Number Corner", which is a dedicated space in the classroom.


We also have bilingual materials such as the Number Corner being used in G1 and G2. Number Corner consists of daily mathematical activities which are taught in both languages depending on the day. When students graduate EB, they will be prepared to easily matriculate into American or French schools and be confident in their diverse and solid mathematical foundation.

Problem Solving in Both languages

Part of our math initiative has been to look at how students apply math learning to solve problems. We have developed our own bilingual steps to solving word problems so that our practices are aligned between French and English teachers. Students should use these same steps when solving word problems at home. The steps are:

Read the problem and find the useful information. Lis le problème et répère les informations utiles.
Draw a model. Fais un schéma.
Write an equation. Écris une égalité.
Write the answer in a sentence. Écris la phrase-réponse.
Using the tape diagram method in a 5th grade class.


The Singapore approach and math experts encourage students to draw mathematical models to help with their problem solving skills. We are teaching EB students across grade levels various models that will serve them as they progress through different mathematical skills. These models are shown to young students and they take ownership of them as they progress through the grades and use them to solve increasingly difficult problems. Here are some of the mathematical models that students are learning:

Number Bond

Can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication or division.


Part-Whole Model

Used primarily for addition and subtraction.


Comparison Model

Used primarily for subtraction.

Tape Diagram

Used for multiplication, division, fractions and ratios.

During this school year, we will be evaluating our math initiative and solidifying our plans and goals for the coming years. We will use data from students and teacher collaboration to make sure we are using the best possible curricular tools and continue our harmonization efforts.