Last week, I had the great pleasure of visiting about 40 classrooms that are using Magma Math. I got to help teachers with a range of things, from creating and handing out assignments to facilitating discussions based on their students’ work. I also got to help students enable text to speech and language support in a wide range of languages.
There were a few moments that I want to share with you that highlighted the amazing difference that Magma can make in a classroom when we enable language support for students.
In most of the rooms I visited, I asked students if they have another language that they speak at home that they would like to be able to use in Math. In one class, there was a 3rd grade boy who was fairly new to the US. He was doing ok in math, but shy about sharing. I showed him how to enable Spanish in Magma. Then, he clicked on the little speaker icon, and Magma read the problem aloud to him in Spanish - I wish a picture could capture the moment - his face lit up with pure joy! As the math class went on, he switched back and forth between Spanish and English, and we were able to show one of his solutions to the class!
Another classroom I visited was for 9th graders who are new to English. The students had never experienced math using Magma before, and their math class was focused on math language acquisition. We created an assignment for them and then showed them how to read and hear the assignment in their home languages. It was delightful how energetic the room became as the students were able to access the mathematics! I wonder how much more mathematics these students can access now that language is not a barrier.
In another classroom for students new to English, the kids had been using Magma for a few weeks. It was fun to work with them on some fairly challenging problems about proportional relationships. The students were learning how to use the language features of Magma to toggle back and forth between their home languages and English in order to learn terms like origin, straight line, and constant in English. With guidance from their teachers, the students were using Magma to support their language learning goals as well as math learning targets.
In each class, several students wanted to enable a language that they speak at home or with grandparents even though they were fluent in academic English. These students seemed to love having their multilingual identity affirmed. One student told me that he was “a quarter Italian” and wanted to see and hear his math in Italian. Another student told me that by enabling Chinese in Magma, her grandmother could help her with math! And another student was excited to see that his language was “correct” in Magma.
Being a multilingual student can be exhausting and frustrating, (I speak from experience as a Danish Language Learner when I was an exchange student.), but the languages we speak are a huge part of our identities. Having a second (or third) language enhances our thinking and sometimes can give us access to different ways to think about or solve problems. Lastly, being multilingual is a huge part of our identity.
I’m so excited to see how Magma removes language barriers while also affirming our students’ identities. As you work with your students, consider how you can use Magma’s capabilities so language is not a barrier, but an affirmation of our students’ identities!