child development

Bilingualism and math standards

I am preparing for an upcoming presentation on instructional strategies for young children who are dual-language learners.  I am really fascinated by the language used in the Common Core Mathematics Standards.  You might wonder what bilingualism and mathematics standards could possibly have to do with each other.  Well, I think quite a lot.  These standards remind me of numerous advantages that many bilinguals have been found to experience, such as with problem-solving skills.


Take a look, for example, at the first two goals which you can find on page 6 of the Mathematics Standards (http://www.corestandards.org/Math/):

  1. “Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. Mathematically proficient students start by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and looking for entry points to its solution.”
  2. “Reason abstractly and quantitatively. Mathematically proficient students make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations.”

For brevity, I’ll highlight a few particular areas and phrases to illustrate why these standards make me think of bilinguals:

  • “They bring two complementary abilities to bear on problems… the ability to decontextualize—to abstract a given situation and represent it symbolically and manipulate the representing symbols as if they have a life of their own, without necessarily attending to their referents—and the ability to contextualize”
  • “…to pause as needed during the manipulation process in order to probe into the referents for the symbols involved”
  • “…attending to the meaning…not just how to compute”
  • “…knowing and flexibly using”

So, attention, abstraction, symbols, manipulation, meaning, flexibly using—do not these terms also all relate to the natural experience of being bilingual?  Bilinguals attend to the language being used; they may display early understanding that words are abstract and arbitrary symbols to convey meaning that vary by language; they demonstrate the ability to manipulate language use to communicate in one language with one person, the other language with another person, and even both languages simultaneously with certain people in some situations to enhance meaning.  Talk about flexibility!

The mathematics standards are much more than rote memorization and computation; they target underlying cognitive skills in attention, analysis, abstraction, flexibility, and creative thought processes in which bilinguals have been shown to have advantages.

In my mind, this is all the more justification for not only allowing children to maintain their first language, but strongly encouraging and supporting parents’ endeavors to raise their children with more than one language, and therefore, experience the benefits that bilingualism affords them.

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Bullying: On Our Radar

There is a good chance that each of you remembers at least one school bully while growing up. You’ve also probably heard one or more horrendous stories in the news about children who have been bullied. Bullying is a problem that occurs not only in the U.S. Just recently, Chilean newspapers reported a shocking story about a nine-year-old boy who died following cerebral hemorrhage which resulted from a gruesome act of bullying. This entry is for him and for all who suffer from bullying.

In our profession, bullying needs to be on our radar. I think back to when I worked as an SLP in the schools and wonder how many children on my caseload might have been affected by bullying without my knowledge. It’s an issue that I’ve always discussed with students in my fluency classes, but having learned more about the relationship between bullying and other disabilities, I will definitely be integrating the topic into other courses as well.

According to a review of research by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, children with disabilities are at significantly higher risk of being bullied than children without disabilities. According to the Massachusetts Advocacy for Children (2009), for example, 88% of children with autism sampled were reported to have been victims of bullying. Even in typically developing children, bullying has a negative impact not only on social-emotional development, but also on academic achievement. Therefore, it is a serious problem that further compounds the difficulties which children with disabilities already experience.

Because bullying can interfere with children’s access to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), the PACER Center has put together a document on The Individualized Education

Program (IEP) and Bullying which provides valuable strategies that can be included in a child’s IEPs to help stop the bullying that he/she experiences. For example, strategies may include allowing the child to leave class early to avoid the bully in the hallway between classes, holding in-services for staff and students about policies regarding bullying, and shadowing of the child in the lunchroom or playground where the bullying typically happens.

Again, bullying is a common problem for which SLPs should be on the lookout. Hopefully, we will see more research conducted to better understand what drives people to bully and how professionals can help them while enhancing prevention.

Additional helpful websites:

In Other Languages

www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/publications/spanish-materials.asp

www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/publications/somali-materials.asp

Policies and Laws by State

www.stopbullying.gov/laws

Helping Kids Deal with Bullying

http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/bullies.html

Autism and Safety

www.nationalautismassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/NAA-Bullying-Brochure.pdf

Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Bullying and the Child with Special Needs

www.abilitypath.org/areas-of-development/learning–schools/bullying/articles/walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes.pdf