Doing and Talking Math and Science: Strengthening Reasoning, Strengthening Language
Across the United States, educators are changing the way they teach STEM courses. Students collaborate to investigate local phenomena in science class and work out intriguing problems in mathematics class. Across STEM courses, students attempt explanations, justify their positions, question and challenge one another’s ideas, and build new understanding together. This focus on students’ meaning-making represents an important shift. Rather than focusing on memorizing formulas and procedures in math, or taxonomies and definitions in science, we focus today on strengthening students’ reasoning, their skills in collaborating, and their ability to communicate their complex thinking effectively. For English Learners, this meaning-making is coupled with an emerging ability to make meaning in English. The interplay between meaning-making in science and mathematics and meaning-making in English strengthens students’ skill in both areas.
Like all students, English Learners come to school with rich experiences and ideas about how the world works, ideas shaped by their cultures and discussions with family, and with experience in making meaning in one or more languages. When we position ELs as thinkers and problems-solvers alongside their classmates, they will learn through collaboration and experience many ways to use English to effectively communicate their growing understanding. They will learn, along with their classmates, how to talk science and mathematics as they learn what it means to do science and mathematics.