I’m sure we’ve all been there.
I’m sure we’ve all been there.
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Some years ago I was teaching the phrase “use chopsticks” from the coursebook Let’s Go 2 to a class of primary students in South Korea. During our discussion I casually mentioned that my grandfather couldn’t use chopsticks. The children were visibly shocked by this statement (probably just as much as young American children might be if they heard someone didn’t know how to use a fork).
“Is it because he can’t see well?”
“No, it’s because my grandfather is old and a long time ago there were no chopsticks in Canada so he never learned to use them well.”
I was of course exaggerating a little for the purpose of generating discussion.
“However, young people like me can all use chopsticks now.”
Most of the students just listened and nodded but one girl looked at me with a straight face and said, “But Teacher, you’re not young!”
헐, as the young in Korea might say.
Recently my wife has taken up math as a hobby, which sort of means it has become mine as well. We’ve started watching some of the great educational programming on Korean TV, bought math books to figure out problems, and have even taken to quizzing each other via email. I know some of you must be snickering by now, but as far as hobbies for couples go, is it really worse than binge watching Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad?
It’s also not as hard as it sounds. Most people learn what math they know in school as young children or teenagers, when paying attention is the hardest. I think adults, although burdened with greater responsibilities, may just have greater patience and powers of concentration than the younger folk. We’re just a little out of practice.
The thing is, mathematical terminology is not something my wife’s English studies had really ever covered in any great detail (not did my Korean studies). After pondering this for a bit I got to searching on YouTube for something that might be of help, but I was unimpressed to say the least. Beside plus/minus etc. there just wasn’t much of use for EFL/ESL students wanting to learn more than a grade two level of math in English.
Then there is the fact that many of these videos begin with the teacher explaining how bad they were at math in school and that’s why they now teach English. Whoa…what an utterly uninspiring way to begin a lesson, declaring from the outset that you have no proficiency in the subject. Look, I get it. Math is scary, and teaching it probably scarier still. But most of the people looking up these kinds of videos probably don’t want a lessons in math per se (they’ve already gotten an education in their native language), they just need a teacher to explain how to speak it in English.
The good news is that there is an amazing video series by Professor NJ Wildberger of the University of New South Wales, which provides an excellent summary of mathematical terminology, if not in its entirety, then at least sufficient for any of your students’ demands. It’s a wonderful resource for students who might have received their secondary school education in a non-English environment but need to transition to an English speaking university. I think it would also be useful for any English teacher needing a reference for lessons about math in English.
1. Numbers and Arithmetic
2. The Language of Geometry
3. The Language of Algebra
4. Curves, Functions, and Surfaces
5. Sets, Logic, and Graphs
6. The Language of Calculus