Mathematical Support for English Learners


Students who are emergent multilingual—typically called English learners (ELs) in U.S. schools—can thrive in mathematics class. Yet recent National Assessment of Educational Progress data suggest that too few of these students are reaching their full potential in mathematics. What is the key to these students’ success? Teachers must have effective resources, support, and strategies to tailor instruction to fit emergent multilingual students’ strengths and needs.

Across the United States, EDC’s professional development programs and resources help teachers enhance instruction for students who are emergent multilingual. Working in partnership with educators and school leaders, we design, implement, and study evidence-based programs and resources that give teachers the skills and tools they need to ensure that emergent multilingual students excel.

Key Activities

EDC’s work to facilitate mathematics success for emergent multilingual students includes the following activities:

  • Published Mathematical Thinking and Communication: Access for English Learners for teachers of emergent multilingual students and teacher educators
  • Design fraction division lessons with built-in supports for emergent multilingual students and study the impacts (Project is Analyzing Diagrams: Supports for English Learners.)
  • Developed Visual Access to Mathematics (VAM), a successful teacher professional development course for mathematics teachers of emergent multilingual students
  • Published the Fostering Geometric Thinking Toolkit and conducted a study of Fostering Geometric Thinking professional learning for teachers of emergent multilingual students
  • Led Mathematical Record Keeping Supports Cognition and Communication, a study of how record-keeping strategies help students tackle challenging geometry problems
  • Provided professional development and coaching to teams of teachers in New York City focused on supporting emergent multilingual students’ mathematics learning


  • Over 500 middle grades mathematics teachers, mathematics coaches, and EL specialists across the United States have participated in our mathematics professional development.
  • A nationwide study demonstrated that EDC’s Fostering Geometric Thinking Toolkit professional development positively impacted 150 teachers’ knowledge and instruction.

Learn More

Mathematical Thinking: Support for English Language Learners
EDC Staff
Johannah Nikula
National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences, New York City Department of Education

Horizon Research, Inc.; University of North Carolina-Charlotte