Doing and Talking Mathematics: Engaging ELLs in the Academic Discourse of the Mathematical Practices

  • Rita MacDonaldEmail author
  • Sarah Lord
  • Emily Miller
Part of the English Language Education book series (ELED, volume 17)


It is critical that educators promote full inclusion of English language learners (ELLs) in STEM courses. This chapter presents a process and resources for enacting a discourse-centered pedagogy that builds mathematical understanding while simultaneously engaging and supporting students to develop the language of complex thinking. Using a small set of Teacher Discourse Moves and Student Discourse Moves, teachers focus on deepening students’ mathematical reasoning in ways fully inclusive of ELLs, while also helping all students build the language of complex thinking and mathematical argumentation.



The authors are grateful for the support of the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1346491. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


  1. Chapin, S., O’Connor, C., & Anderson, N. (2003). Classroom discussions: Using math talk to help students learn. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Council of Chief State School Officers. (2012). Framework for English language proficiency development standards corresponding to the common core state standards and the next generation science standards. Washington, DC: CCSSO.Google Scholar
  3. Doing and Talking Math and Science. (2017). Retrieved from
  4. Gee, J. P. (2005). Language in the science classroom: Academic social languages as the heart of school-based literacy. In R. K. Yerrick & W.-M. Roth (Eds.), Establishing scientific classroom discourse communities: Multiple voices of teaching and learning research (pp. 19–37). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Heritage, M., Walqui, A., & Linquanti, R. (2015). English language learners and the new standards: Developing language, content knowledge, and analytical practices in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Lee, N., Cortada, J., & Grimm, L. (2013). WIDA focus on: Group work for content learning. Madison, WI: Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  7. Lee, O., Quinn, H., & Valdés, G. (2013). Science and language for English language learners in relation to next generation science standards and with implications for common core state standards for English language arts and mathematics. Educational Researcher, 42(4), 223–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Leinwand, S., Brahier, D., & Huinker, D. (2014). Principles to action: Ensuring mathematical success for all. Reston, VA: NCTM.Google Scholar
  9. MacDonald, R., Miller, E., & Lord, S. (2017). Doing and talking science: Engaging ELs in the discourse of the science and engineering practices. In A. Oliveira & M. Weinburgh (Eds.), Science teacher preparation in content-based second language acquisition: ASTE series in science education (pp. 179–198). New York, NY: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. MacDonald, R. & Molle, D. (TESOL International, 2015). Creating meaning through key practices in English language arts: Integrating practice, content, and language In L.C. de Oliveira, M. Klassen, & M. Maune. (Eds.), The Common Core Standards in English language arts for English language learners: Alexandria, VA: TESOL International.Google Scholar
  11. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State standards. Washington, DC: Authors.Google Scholar
  12. Pruitt, S. (2015). Next generation science standards: Giving every student a choice. In O. Lee, E. Miller, & R. Januszyk (Eds.), NGSS for all students (pp. 1–7). Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.Google Scholar
  13. Rogoff, B. (2008). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In K. Hall, P. Murphy, & J. Soler (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice: Culture and identities (pp. 58–74). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Schegloff, E. (2007). Sequence organization in interaction: A primer in conversation analysis (Vol. 1). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Smith, M., & Stein, M. (2011). 5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematics discussions. Reston, VA: NCTM.Google Scholar
  16. Windschitl, M., Thompson, J., & Braaten, M. (2011). Ambitious pedagogy by novice teachers? Who benefits from tool-supported collaborative inquiry into practice and why. Teachers College Record, 113(7), 1311–1360.Google Scholar
  17. Zwiers, J., O’Hara, S., & Pritchard, R. (2014). Common Core Standards in diverse classrooms: Essential practices for developing academic language and disciplinary literacy. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.WIDA ConsortiumWisconsin Center for Education Research University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations