Mastering math and the academic language of math is essential for all students, but especially for English learners (ELs) who are acquiring content knowledge and English proficiency concurrently. The three-year Mathematics and English Language Development (MELD) study is a project focused on improving the math knowledge and skills and academic English of middle-grades ELs and their English-proficient classmates.
The project modifies the base curriculum by (1) adding English-as-a-second-language enhancements to meet the needs of students learning content in a second language; (2) increasing the focus on developing students’ academic language associated with math; and (3) making primary language (Spanish) support available for ELLs who need it.
The intervention includes partnering ELLs with English-proficient peers, and additional professional development for teachers to familiarize them with MELD methods and materials. The first two years of the study followed an iterative development process to refine the intervention, leading to a pilot study in the third and final study year.
The MELD Supplemental Curriculum
The MELD supplemental curriculum consisted of two units, each of which consisted of 10 to 15 lessons, that were taught during a 50-minute daily block of time over the course of three months. The two MELD units focused on proportional relationships—a central concept in middle school mathematics.
The practitioner manual, Project MELD: Mathematics and English Language Development for English, displays and describes the instructional materials and methods used in MELD. Materials include digital teaching cards, teacher guides, student guides and handouts, unit glossaries, supplemental resources, and mini-lessons. The manual also explains how MELD engages students in disciplinary practices; develop ELs’ foundational conceptual knowledge and skills required for grade-level mathematics, involves students in productive discourse and interactions with others; uses multiple registers and modalities, and leverage home-language resources.
A small pilot study investigated the effectiveness of MELD. Students in the treatment group used the MELD supplemental curriculum. Students in a control group used supplemental curriculum materials developed by the district rather than the MELD curriculum for the same amount of time. Findings from the small pilot study indicate that MELD methods and curriculum were more effective than the district curriculum in helping both ELs and English proficient students gain the mathematics skills, knowledge, and language needed to succeed in Algebra 1.
The development and pilot testing of MELD materials and methods was supported through a grant from the United States Department of Education (Project MELD R305A140199).