Given that early mathematics education lays the foundation for later mathematics achievement, teachers of young children have the responsibility and challenge of providing effective mathematics instruction to all children, including those who are immigrants. This chapter discusses four key points relevant to mathematics acquisition and immigrant children: (a) bilingualism as an asset, (b) strengths of immigrant families, (c) teachers' mathematical knowledge, and (d) developmentally appropriate mathematics environment. It is suggested that institutions of higher education, administrators, and teachers of young children consider those four key points, and that each topic is linked to on-going professional development for the purpose of effective instruction.
One of the top domestic issues in the United States is the low educational achievement of a majority of immigrant youth, typically defined as children under the age of eighteen who are foreign born or U.S.-born to immigrant parents. These children represent 25% of the nations' 75 million children (Passel, 2011); immigrant children are the fastest growing segment of the nations' population of children (Hernandez, 2004). This impacts teacher and school programs throughout the United States. For example, during the ten year period between the 1997-1998 school year and 2007-2008 school year, the following states had significant increases in students with English as a second language: South Carolina (827.8% increase), Indiana (409.8%) and Arkansas (287.1%) (Batalova & McHugh, 2010). While Spanish is the predominant language spoken by immigrant children, there are approximately 450 languages represented among students in public schools in the U.S. (Kindler, 2002).
Clearly, the demographics of the student population in America’s schools is changing. Public schools are expected to be places of integration for children of immigrants. The need to serve immigrant children in rural, suburban, and urban schools will have an impact in every state and will continue to increase. Teachers are being challenged to have the knowledge and confidence to provide effective instruction for all students, including those who are immigrants. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss four key issues relevant to mathematics acquisition and immigrant children:
Bilingualism as an asset,
Strengths of immigrant families,
Teachers' knowledge of mathematics, and
Developmentally appropriate mathematical curriculum.