Best of Both Worlds

Like many elementary educators, Cathy Wong provides her young students with hands-on, interactive learning experiences. But providing instruction in both English and Mandarin adds a unique challenge to lesson planning. Cathy draws on her students' first language knowledge as she helps them develop both their mathematical skills and fluency in two languages.

Kindergarteners learn math in English and Mandarin. (coming soon)

Cathy’s students practice adding and subtracting in English and Mandarin.

Scene Photo

Students participate eagerly in activities.

Cathy, fluent in both English and Mandarin, has more than a decade of experience teaching within a dual language setting, but this year brought new challenges. In the past, she was responsible for instruction in Mandarin, her colleague taught in English, and students alternated between their joint classrooms. Now responsible for providing instruction in both languages, Cathy has had to adjust to planning alone for multiple preps.

She has enjoyed the challenge—although she misses the energy of closely collaborating with a colleague—and is particularly proud of her students’ progress in math. She pushes the children daily, working to ensure they have a smooth transition when they move to English-only classrooms next year.

Today’s lesson includes work on number, operations, and quantitative reasoning—as well as a quick review of geometrical shapes. Cathy uses the terms join and separate to help students understand addition and subtraction and includes many different activities to keep her students moving while they practice solving math problems. Cathy and her students switch between languages to clarify concepts and terms. They explore concepts as a whole group before splitting into small groups to work on different activities based on individual needs.

Cathy quickly ends the lesson and asks her students for help cleaning up the room. They pitch in enthusiastically, moving chairs, wiping desks, and putting away supplies. Children chatter in English and Mandarin as they work and Cathy listens closely. It’s just one more way to keep tabs on where her students are in their language development.