Multiplying the Power of Your Mathematics Instruction Using the California ELA/ELD Framework

by Mark Jutabha

Language and mathematics are typically considered separate content areas. But the new California English Language Development/English Language Arts Framework encourages teachers to consider the language of mathematics and the ways in which students’ language assets — the language they bring with them into the classroom — can be leveraged for learning.

With this asset stance, teachers can support English learners as the students “code-switch” from informal language to academic language. For example, Figure 9.12 of the ELD/ELA Framework suggests “New Ways to Talk About Language,” which encourages teachers to focus less on correcting language and more on how language works in different settings.


Figure 9.12. New Ways of Talking About Language

Instead of Try this

  Thinking in terms of                                   

  • proper or improper
  • good or bad

  See language as

  • appropriate or inappropriate
  • effective or ineffective in a specific setting

  Talking about grammar as

  • right or wrong
  • correct or incorrect

  Talk about grammar as

  • patterns​
  • how language varies by setting and situation

  Thinking that students

  • make mistakes or errors
  • have problems with plurals, possessives, tense, etc.
  • "left off" an -s, -'s, -ed

  See students as

  • following the language patterns of their home language or home varieties of English
  • using grammatical patterns or vocabulary that is different from Standard English

  Saying to students

  • "should be," "are supposed to," "need to correct"


  Invite students

  • to code-switch (choose the type of language appropriate for the setting and situation​)

  Red notes in the margin

  • correcting students' language                                                                                                                    



  Lead students to

  • compare and contrast language
  • build on existing knowledge and add new language (Standard English)
  • understand how to code-switch appropriately




Adapted from:

Wheeler, Rebecca S., and Rachel Swords. 2010. Code-Switching Lessons: Grammar Strategies for Linguistically              Diverse Writers, 17. Portsmouth NH: Heinemann

























Providing explicit linguistic supports, like those in Figure 9.12, is key to promoting a safe learning environment while concurrently valuing students’ language resources. One way to provide supports is by encouraging students to write or verbalize their explanations of how they solve mathematics problems, and then, rather than correcting students’ grammar, using what the students provide as information to formatively assess the students’ thinking. Teachers might ask, for example, “When you wrote ______, did you mean ______?”

Teachers can also integrate ELD strategies with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice by having students collaborate and produce evidence when problem solving. For example, the teacher might present an example of an incorrect solution for a mathematical problem and ask students to provide an explanation of how someone might arrive at this solution and cite evidence to explain the reasoning behind the incorrect answer. 

Pedagogical practices highlighted by the California ELD Standards and ELA/ELD Framework can guide teachers toward integrating literacy and mathematics instruction to address both the mathematics content and language needs of English learners. 

Check out the entire ELA/ELD Framework here.

And visit our service page to explore how WestEd can support you and your professional learning needs around the new standards.


School Improvement Facilitator, WestEd