Emile Education is a resource that can support those students for whom English is not their first language with their mathematics and language. For many learners with English as an Additional Language, it is often language that acts as a barrier to their understanding. The difficulty they experience in negotiating the language to access the mathematical concepts can be misinterpreted as difficulties in understanding the mathematical concepts. Mathematics is a language in its own right, a highly compressed and abstract symbolic language. Moreover, mathematics often requires learners to use everyday words that may have different meanings within a mathematical setting. The mathematics curriculum requires that children engage in problem solving and are able to explain their reasoning as well as becoming fluent in using appropriate procedures with understanding.
Locating mathematical concepts in a concrete context provides opportunities for children to explore, consolidate and re-visit subject content whilst providing a meaningful and purposeful context to develop their language skills. The visual nature of the games provides children with a physical representation of both the mathematical concepts and the language they need to access, process and articulate their understanding. The games enable children with EAL to see, read and hear the language in a variety of different contexts, using the visuals to support their understanding. The games also allow children to re-visit the mathematical content and language, helping to reinforce and consolidate both subject and language learning. One of the key benefits of game-based learning is that games allow children to learn through play and failure without any fear or loss of confidence.
The games provide visual context to support the development of children’s understanding of key mathematical concepts relating to the ‘big ideas’ of mathematics whilst providing opportunities for children to use language to demonstrate their understanding. Research has shown that connecting mathematics and language learning can have significant cognitive benefits, promoting higher order thinking skills.
The potential of game-based learning to promote learner engagement and motivation is widely recognised and our early findings suggest that children with EAL enjoy playing the games. They say that playing games makes them think and helps them to learn. The children also commented that playing games gave them time to think and to play at their own pace. This clearly indicates the potential of game-based learning to foster learner autonomy.