Watching college football games as math assignment? For the fifth-grade students at Woodward Elementary School this is a reality. Students were asked to score the plays and keep track or yards, points and time. They translated this data into fractions and percentages which were used as mathematics learning tools.

The goal of this activity was to reach across the socio-economic and language barriers between the students.

Math is better understood through a real-world assignment. At Woodward, math became a **universal language** in the classroom since 95% of the students is learning English as a second language. Statistics tell that one-fifth of the people in the U.S do not speak English at home, so it becomes a problem in the classroom.

Dual-language programs have long been the trendy tactic for bringing down language-learning barriers. But is math the real **answer**?

President Obama’s Race to the Top initiative emphasizes STEM learning, particularly in mathematics, in order for more students to make it to high school graduation and the college degree beyond it. That push is founded on facts. Take Rhode Island, for example. In the state, poor math performance in high school is linked to lower enrollment in college and failure to complete college.

Imagine then the ramifications of that statistic on more diverse, urban K-12 classrooms? The good news is that urban school districts, though still often underperforming in math, are showing the greatest positive improvement in math achievement. Large cities are making progress more quickly than the nation as a whole. The students who speak English as a second language in these urban settings are improving at a faster rate in math than their native English-speaking peers around the country – and that speaks volumes to the power of math as a universal subject and equalizer.

There are certainly programs that target urban students when it comes to math, and other STEM, learning but that much of that progress is a direct result of the **teachers** in the classroom. There is no way that one math-learning or ESL initiative drawn up by a district or the state can adequately address the students that need the extra boost. Individualized plans, like the college football scoring assignment, are what really get through to students and bring them to a place of better long-term comprehension. Instead of being a learning complexity, innovative math learning initiatives are the key to overall K-12 academic improvement. Math is a universal language and one that needs practical applications to really have an impact. That starts with the teachers but needs support from the decision-makers to truly make a difference.

*How do you reach your students when it comes to math learning? *

*What innovative ways help you?*

**By Ángela R.**

Source: The Edvocate

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