Students who are multilingual learners—also called English learners (ELs) in U.S. schools—face the dual challenge of learning mathematics while they master English. Without adequate resources and support, many teachers struggle to engage multilingual students in rigorous mathematics while also facilitating their language development and mathematical communication.

EDC is improving teacher practice and student learning through the Visual Access to Mathematics (VAM) project. VAM builds on EDC’s long-standing, innovative work to close opportunity gaps for multilingual learners. Through VAM, we are developing resources, including a blended course, to help teachers use visual representations—such as diagrams for mathematical problem-solving—to support students’ success.

Key Activities

VAM deepens teachers’ understanding of how to improve students’ mathematical learning, with a focus on students who are multilingual learners. The VAM project:

  • Produced a year-long VAM professional development (PD) course for teachers with extensive input from local educators
  • Studied teacher learning using a small-scale cluster randomized controlled trial
  • Identified key PD activities that support teacher learning
  • Offers the VAM PD course and workshops for multiple cohorts of teachers, including online workshops and resources to support teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic


  • Over 150 middle grades mathematics teachers, mathematics coaches, and English learner specialists have participated in VAM professional learning.
  • In a study involving more than 100 teachers, the VAM PD course was shown to significantly improve the following:
  1. Teachers’ skills in analyzing and understanding student thinking
  2. Teachers’ sense of self-efficacy about teaching emergent multilingual students and using diagrams to support students’ learning

Learn More

Visual Access to Mathematics
EDC Staff
National Science Foundation