Below is a PDF showing the text I chose to analyze.
Please take a look at the teaching suggestions in the sidebar and the student page (with answers) shown on the right.
Here is the feedback I received for this assignment.
Excellent text selection (you are the first of my many students to analyze a math text!), and very thoughtful and insightful analysis of that short, but complicated, word problem. You have clearly unwrapped some of the cultural layers – unnecessary distractions as you rightly note – surrounding the math in this problem. You also did a great job of isolating both key content and non-content vocabulary in this problem. It is clear you are developing a deep empathy for your ELL students who must contend with cultural and linguistic barriers; even in a math class…a place some have thought of as a “level” playing field for linguistically diverse learners. That is clearly not the case! I appreciate that you are noticing how a “simple” paragraph can be an insurmountable (or at least very distracting) obstacle for ELL students.
One area I want to challenge you to “see” more clearly is the linguistic structural load – meaning the grammar and syntax – which can just as easily trip up an ELL student as the cultural and lexical (vocabulary) loads. For example, in the first sentence, we are presented with a complex noun phrase – organic vegetable farmer. Organic is clearly an adjective and farmer clearly a noun, but vegetable is a confusing element in this distracting phrase as it can be a noun or adjective. Clearly it is an adjective (in a list of 2 adjectives) in this phrase, but if an ELL looks it up in a dictionary, the noun form will pop up first and confusion might ensue. Ok, that’s an extreme, perhaps, example, but what about the clause that follows “who also raises…” – that pronoun, who, is a critical linking word in a complex predicate and if an ELL can’t make sense of its usage, further confusion arises. In the next sentence, there is an introductory clause followed by a sentence which makes use of the present perfect tense – a verb tense ELLs don’t often learn until later in their studies (2nd or 3rd year). It may be irrelevant text, but it can still lead to language confusion and frustration. When looking specifically at the mathematical part of the problem, there are two linguistic features that could cause trouble for ELL students: (1) the use of the preposition “to” in the sentence “The ratio of dozens of eggs TO days is 5 TO 2.” In no way is this a standard conversational sentence structure nor standard conversational use of the preposition “to” – ELL students must be taught this specific grammatical usage within this context (ratio of X to Y) and be made aware of the multiple meanings and usages of the word “to.” And (2) “What does it mean?” The referent for “it” is very unclear in this statement and discussion of this pronoun and how pronouns are used to refer to something previously stated is an important teachable moment.
In short, you did an excellent job analyzing the text and finding many of the obstacles ELLs will face as they work with you on this problem in an effort to grasp the concepts of unit rates and ratios, but there is an opportunity to attend to more of the language elements beyond vocabulary as an ESL mathematics teacher. This is the beauty of content-based language instruction – language development and content knowledge in one package!
Great work on this first assignment. For future wikis and fieldwork assignments, please cite sources (materials, PPTs, articles) you drew from or that link to your practical applications as a way to demonstrate mastery of the course material and your skill in applying what you are learning directly – and please keep up the excellent work. Thanks!