Students who are emergent multilingual learners face the dual challenge of learning mathematics while they master English. Without adequate resources and support, many teachers struggle to engage emergent multilingual students in rigorous mathematics while 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 emergent 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 emergent multilingual. The VAM project:

  • Produced a 60-hour VAM professional development (PD) course with extensive input from local educators
  • Offers the VAM PD course and workshops for multiple cohorts of teachers
  • Studies teacher learning using a small-scale cluster randomized controlled trial
  • Identifies key professional development activities that support teacher learning


  • Over 150 middle grades mathematics teachers, mathematics coaches, and English learner specialists have participated in VAM professional learning.
  • Visual Access to Mathematics’ findings have been published in journals such as ZDM- Mathematics Education and Educational Leadership.
  • 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
Johannah Nikula
National Science Foundation