Educator Resources

Mathematics Problem-Solving Strategies for ELLs in the Elementary Grades

In this video series, math consultant Deborah Armitage focuses on ELL instructional practices that address mathematical problem-solving and discourse in grades K-5. The goal of these videos is to provide elementary teachers of ELLs with best practices and research-based approaches on mathematical tasks that, anchored on the NYS Common Core Learning Standards, advance student content knowledge while incorporating academic language development.




I. Problem Solving vs. Word Problems

Deborah Armitage describes the difference between a word problem and problem-solving task by using Webb’s Four Levels of Conceptual Understanding. References are made to organizing problems solving tasks into working and assessment portfolios to guide instruction and document student progress.

II. The Problem Solving Process

Ms. Armitage introduces George Polya’s Problem Solving Procedures and explains how to use them with students.

III. Using Rubrics for Assessment

Ms. Armitage focuses on the concept of rubrics. She discusses their usage, advantages and practical way to introduce them to students. A rubric to assess problem-solving skills and academic language development is explained.

IV.  Assessing Student Work

Ms. Armitage demonstrates how to use the problem-solving rubric to assess samples of NYC students’ work.

V. Kindergarten Classroom Modeling


Ms. Armitage models how to problem-solve a kindergarten math task by using patterns and skip counting on the number line.

VI. Third Grade Classroom Modeling


Ms. Armitage shows, using diagramming as strategy, how to problem-solve a mathematical task with a third grade class of ELLs.

VII. Fourth Grade Classroom Modeling


Ms. Armitage models a problem-solving task using student suggested strategies such as area models and number line. She also focuses on uncovering student misconceptions.