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A New Bilingual Math Curriculum

Date Posted:  Tuesday, June 4, 2019

 

Three years ago, EB embarked on a mission to examine and renew our math curriculum from Kindergarten to 8th grade. We have decided to implement a Singapore-inspired approach with specific curricular tools that align to the French and American math programs. We have also strengthened the harmonization between math in two languages.

A Singapore-inspired approach

One of the purposes of the math pilot was to look at how Singapore math might help our students. Singapore is known for its rigorous math curriculum and high test scores so many countries around the world have taken note to see what they could learn about what Singapore was doing right.

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

 

The Singapore math curriculum is based on sound educational research in the field of mathematics about how students best learn mathematics concepts. At EB, we have adopted the major tenets of Singapore math:

  1. Units to mastery: This means that students spend a concentrated amount of time learning one concept in-depth instead of jumping around between skills.
  2. Mathematical models: Using models and schematic drawings help students understand mathematics better. Singapore is known for their diverse bar models to help students visualize abstract concepts. At EB, we are using these models in both French and English.
  3. Concrete to pictorial to abstract: This concept ensures that students have opportunities for hands-on practice with manipulatives before transferring those skills to drawings and eventual abstraction. The process of concrete to pictorial to abstract is not unique to Singapore as it’s the foundation of sound mathematical pedagogy, and was first developed by an American psychologist in the 1960s.

Using these principles as our guide, we also want to differentiate “how” we teach math from “what” skills we teach. The above tenets help us determine “how” to teach math. For the “how” we also draw inspiration from the American (CCSS Mathematical Practices) and French (Compétences Travaillées in Cycle 2 and in Cycle 3) programs.

One of the strengths of the mathematical practices is the emphasis on building conceptual knowledge before algorithms. This helps students understand math better without simply memorizing mindless steps. We have also found that the American and French practices align.

The “what”, in terms of what skills to cover and when, is guided by the American and French program standards. In that way, we can adequately prepare students to seamlessly transition to the math programs in either American or French high schools.  

Using the tape diagram method in a 5th grade class.

 

Bilingual Harmonization

Another purpose of the math pilot was to examine how we harmonize the skills and teaching of math in two languages. We want to align our practices and the competencies we teach so that mathematics makes sense to students in both French and English. We have implemented a number of measures to ensure this.

  1. Bilingual problem solving strategies so that students use the same process to solve word problems, whether in French or English (read an article published on the blog about bilingual problem solving strategies).
  2. Bilingual mathematics models that we’ve named in French and English and use school wide (read an article published on the blog about bilingual mathematics models).
  3. Number Corner in Kindergarten, First and Second Grade. These whole class math activities and games are based on the American program standards but are taught in both French and English. It gives students in the early grades an important foundation for American math when the majority of their instruction is with a French method book.
  4. Eureka Math in third, fourth and fifth grades. This curriculum is based on the American standards but uses the Singapore methodology tenants described above: units to mastery, mathematical models and concrete to pictorial to abstract. We have translated the units so that they can be taught bilingually. We will also add unique elements of the French program standards with supplemental materials.
  5. An adjustment in scheduling at the middle school allows students to better master mathematical concepts. Students spend three weeks learning math in one language before cycling to the other language. The concepts and skills are aligned to build on each other throughout the year.

We utilize technology to help support our math goals and differentiate for students. Students in G1-G5 use Zearn at home and at school to further progress in math. Zearn accompanies the Eureka math curriculum and is based on the American program standards. It is meant for independent learning and guides students through skills with teaching sessions and assessments. When students have demonstrated understanding, it unlocks the next lesson. There are also adaptive fluency exercises that help students develop fluency with numbers (read more about Zearn in an email sent to G1 to G5 families).

Using the tape diagram model in math in Grade 2.

 

In the middle school, the Math in Focus curriculum has an online component and students also use Khan Academy for more differentiation. We have a new tool which allows us to use the MAP results to match to specific Khan Academy lessons. Learn more about MAP in a recent article on the blog.

The past three years have allowed us to delve deep into how we teach mathematics bilingually and what are the best research-based practices for our students. Our goal is to build a solid foundation in mathematics that will serve students beyond their time at EB.

All the decisions we have made in regards to curriculum choices have been guided by data and a collaborative process with teachers and administration. Now that we have determined the best tools and resources for our math curriculum, we will continue to implement them and provide professional development for teachers.

If you have questions about our math curriculum or would like to learn more about how to support your child at home in math, please contact Maggie Schoon at mschoon@eb.org