The Role of Translanguaging in Latino Mathematics Classrooms
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Given the concerns about the mathematics achievement gap between Latinos and their majority counterparts, and since English learners (ELs) are an important percentage of Latino students in schools today, it is important to investigate the characteristics of teachers in Latino school districts that have significantly narrowed the mathematics achievement gap in the past. This dissertation is a collective case study of three middle school mathematics teachers participating in a larger project, CAREER: Mathematics Instruction for English Language Learners (MIELL). The three participants spoke English and Spanish with different levels of proficiency, and taught in a South Texas school district that has shown important achievements in the mathematics performance of its Latino students. This case study focused on the participants’ (a) family background and preparation, (b) support of students’ first language, (c) beliefs on the cognitive advantages of bilingualism in mathematics, and (d) use of two languages (or translanguaging) in mathematics. Data was collected by means of interviews with the teacher participants and nine classroom videos (three per participant) made during the 2013-2014 academic year. Interviews were analyzed by means of typological analysis and based on topics found in the fields of bilingual education, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and mathematics education. The translanguaging events observed in the participants’ videos were coded according to the strategies utilized by the teacher and the teaching goals linked to those strategies. The teacher participants were highly educated middle school mathematics teachers who had diverse family backgrounds. The aforementioned characteristics influenced the participants’ points of view on the cognitive advantages of bilingualism in mathematics and some of their practices in the classroom. The three participants in the study used a variety of linguistic strategies that qualified as translanguaging during their mathematics instruction, including cognate use, collaborative grouping, previewing, revoicing, stimulus of inner speech, and student paraphrasing. These strategies were used to make sense of the content and to elicit students’ thinking, but not necessarily to support students’ first language. The teaching strategies involving translanguaging identified and described in this case study are relevant to practice, since they can be used by any teacher in any linguistically diverse classroom.