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Combining Math and Chinese Immersion multiples the benefits

March 25, 2014

By Heather Clydesdale

Teachers today face a conundrum: they lack the hours needed to help students master requisite proficiencies. This burden is amplified for those teaching language immersion classes. Some split their students’ school day with an English teacher, and most must use additional time to explain concepts and build skills in a language that is not students’ mother tongue. Some experts, however, are proving that math and language immersion can be a formula for efficiency in learning both subjects. Asia Society spoke with educators from Utah and educators from Minnesota shared their strategies for combining these two subject areas.

Sandra Talbot, project director for the Utah Chinese Dual-Immersion Elementary Programs, says that the ambitious scope of Utah’s immersion initiative, launched four years ago, prompted state administrators to seek creative ways to combine math and language.

First, they sought a curriculum flexible enough to suit the different programs of ten districts, ultimately selecting the enVisionMATH Common Core product by Pearson because it was topic-driven. “If there was a school district that was using GO Math or Math Expressions,” says Talbot, “we could use a Chinese enVisionMATH topic that the teachers would be able to align successfully with the math topic that was being taught by the other grade-level classrooms.” EnVisionMATH textbooks are also available in Chinese for first through fourth grades, with versions for higher grades expected in the near future. Since Utah uses a fifty-fifty immersion model, where the day is split between two separate teachers giving English or Chinese instruction, a dual-language curriculum makes it easy for educators to coordinate their efforts.

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