English Learners


On average, English Learners do not do as well in math as English Primary students. In this project, we are studying the effects of text characteristics, such as the inclusion of difficult vocabulary and complex grammatical forms, on the strategies used by English Learners as they try to solve math word problems.  We are using the results to develop new features for the AnimalWatch math tutoring system that can help students learn math while they are learning English.  Some of the features include:

  • online tutorials in "math vocabulary" (e.g., "dividend" versus "divisor")
  • integrated glossary for unfamiliar vocabulary terms that can interfere with understanding a word problem
  • video lessons so students who cannot yet read English at grade level can listen to explanations 
  • professional development resources for mathematics teachers

The project is supported by a Discovery Research K12 award from the National Science Foundation (0903441).  The project evaluation partner is RAND-Education in Santa Monica CA, under the direction of Dr. Matthew Lewis.

UA News article about the project

Beal, C. R., Adams, N. M., & Cohen, P. R.  (2010).  Reading proficiency and mathematics problem solving by high school English Language Learners.  Urban Education, 45, 58-74.

Beal, C. R., & Barbu, O.  (2010, April).  Impact of English text difficulty on English Learners' math word problem solving.  Poster presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Denver CO.

Cirett, F., & Beal, C. R. (2010, May).  Problem solving by English Learners and English Primary students in an algebra readiness ITS.  Proceedings of the 23rd International FLAIRS Conference, Daytona Beach FL.

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