Using Math to Teach English
City College of San Francisco
Relevance: Math is related to everything in
life. The so-called “new new” math, or “whole math”,
especially emphasizes this. Math is about problem solving in real-
Parenting – Assisting kids with homework
Brainstorm others here:
Many students have strong mathematical intelligence.
math intelligence is an untapped resource in the
Many adult students have a lot of math schema in
Math is an international language that communicates
Many immigrant students in community college have
academic/career goals in fields involving
Math is largely missing from most ESL
Basic Numbers & Math
Go beyond just reciting/repeating the numbers. Spice
up your curriculum with some math basics in English
Basic math operations vocabulary and expressions
Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
How to say “plus”, “minus”, “equals”, etc.
How to pose the questions, i.e., “How much is ...?”
Percents and fractions
Decimals and commas
Note that the use of the point as decimal marker varies in
different countries. Make sure S’s are clear on the use of the point
and the comma in the US.
How to say large numbers
How to say numbers with decimals
Basic Math activity
Excel in the
Math Games and other fun
stuff for students & parents
Games with math and numbers
Beat the calculator
Number guessing games “I’m thinking of a number...”
Web sites – just a couple of examples
At Home with Math
Education Place Brain Teasers
This is a real favorite with students. I’ve done it in
various ways. Here’s one:
Introduce concept and terminology of budgeting.
Students brainstorm expense categories. (Food,
Rent, Transportation, etc.) This is excellent for
They can use real, estimated, or fantasy (ex. My
Dream Budget) figures.
They enter their information in a My Expenses
worksheet. (Here is an example.)
They make a Pie Chart of their
Money to my mother
expenses. This is an example of Health
the same student’s expense chart.
Budgeting for the larger
How would you spend $100 billion?
Economic Stimulus Plan (in billions of $)
Tax Cuts -For low
Health care , $20
Basic Business Math
Payroll and taxes
What’s the sales tax?
Inventory word problem
You work in the bookstore. You have to do an inventory of some new books.
You count the books and find that you have 85 copies of Side by Side2,
120 copies of Focus on Grammar, and 165 copies of Going Places Book 1.
Side by Side costs 21.95 each. Focus on Grammar costs 25.49. Going
Places costs 19.35.
1.What is the total cost of all the books? ____________
2.How many total books are there? _____________
The worksheet might look something like this.
Mileage Expense Report
Payroll – reading the pay stub plus
Period: 2/1/2004 Employee Name Jay Adams Employee ID 1
Tax Status 1 Hours Worked 35
Hourly Rate $10.00 Overtime Rate $15.00 Sick Hours 1
Social Security Tax $32.13 Federal Income Tax $127.50 Vacation Hours 0
Medicare Tax $7.40 State Tax $11.73 Overtime Hours 10
Insurance Deduction $40.00 Union Dues $20.00 Gross Pay $510.00
Total Taxes and
Total Taxes and Regular Deductions $238.76 $238.76
Net Pay $271.25
Just Ask Jeeves
Though Jeeves, himself, has retired, you can
still use ask.com to find information by
writing regular English questions. Students get
to practice writing wh-questions.
Create a graph in Excel
Students compile their data from the Ask.com
exercise into a chart. They also do a writing activity,
describing the data using comparatives/superlatives.
GDP per capita
$- $1,000 $2,000 $3,000 $4,000 $5,000 $6,000 $7,000 $8,000 $9,000 $10,000
Activities with Infoplease
Another great stats site
These stats are great for guessing games!
More Math web links
Helping your Children learn Math
/index.html Good examples of math activities
common in “whole math” curricula.
The Math Forum @ Drexel University
http://mathforum.org/ Good resource on
everything in math ed for teachers, students, parents,
and everyone else.
Area, Distance, Temperature, Speed,
Volumes, weights, size
Who’s the most underpaid player in MLB
today? (according to some commentator guy I just heard on
TV) but then this is just an example of what you can do: You
hear this stuff all the time, so the more current, the better.
Questions relating to sports salaries are of interest even to the