Mathematical Support for English Learners


Students in the United States can succeed in mathematics regardless of their level of English language acquisition, but they and their teachers may need additional support to achieve that success. Teacher practices that integrate evidence-based strategies can help students engage in mathematical work and explain their mathematical ideas.

Working in partnership with educators and school administrators, EDC implements evidence-based programs that give teachers the skills and tools to help English learners (ELs) succeed in mathematics. EDC’s belief that ELs are capable of rigorous mathematical thinking and analysis is based on years of research and experience in the field. Implemented in several urban districts across the United States, EDC’s professional development programs have helped reshape standards and expectations for ELs.

Key Activities

EDC’s work to promote mathematical support for ELs emphasizes explanation and reasoning alongside computational fluency and includes the following activities:

  • Developed Visual Access to Mathematics (VAM), a blended-learning course for mathematics teachers of English learners
  • Conduct Mathematical Record Keeping Supports Cognition and Communication, a study that is examining how middle school students’ record-keeping strategies help them work through challenging geometry problems
  • Compiled key ideas and strategies for mathematics teachers of English learners into the book Mathematical Thinking and Communication: Access for English Learners, which includes access to numerous teacher professional development resources
  • Developed Mathematical Thinking: Supports for English Language Learners, a website offering tools, strategies, and resources for middle school mathematics teachers teaching ELs
  • Provided professional development and coaching to teams of teachers in New York City focused on supporting ELs in mathematics


Over the past decade, have conducted EL-focused professional development with 250 teachers in 14 U.S. states

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