A ‘Language-Independent’ Math Program?

By Mary Ann Zehr — September 24, 2010 1 min read
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Here’s something that jumped out at me from a listserv.

A school principal has described a supplemental computer math program in the publication District Administration as a learning tool that “doesn’t require any language at all.” The article (posted in April, by the way) dubs the math program as “language-independent” and says it’s been successful with English-language learners.

Since the article was published by a “custom publishing group,” I suspect it is a promotional piece. It quotes only one source, the principal, and speaks only about the benefits of the math program, named ST Math. The “case study” has a link at the bottom to the MIND Research Institute, which is described as “a neuroscience and education research-based non-profit corporation.”

But I have to say, I’m intrigued. What does a math program look like that doesn’t require students to know any language, if it really exists? The article says the math program helped one elementary school improve its math scores on California’s math test.

But someone along the way had to also teach the students the language they needed to know to take the math test. I haven’t seen it, but I think it’s safe to say that California’s math test is not “language-independent.”

Readers, have any of you come across math programs that effectively teach a wide range of math concepts without requiring students to know any language? What questions do you have after reading this case study?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.