The classroom is a language immersion class.
The class is a language immersion course.
“The essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.”
-George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By
As I explained on the Home page, I constructed metaphors to help me implement authentic mathematical practices. I wanted to see students engaging in genuine mathematical inquiry, for them to see the activity of problem solving as a creative process, and most importantly, for them to see themselves as mathematical thinkers. One thing that has frustrated me about teaching math in the past is that many students struggle to use the vocabulary with any assertion, confidence, or ownership. They would speak with such insecurity, as if they were questioning the words that they were using, as they were using them. This pointed to a lack of ownership with the content. My suspicion is that this lack of ownership came from an inability to identify with the content. If a student could not see herself as a mathematical thinker, then there would always be a certain amount of distance that she would have from the language, which would prohibit her from becoming fluent with it. This concept of fluency led me to see the class as an immersion classroom for learning a foreign language. I thought that if students had to use the terms on a daily basis in discussion through discovery and problem solving, then they would have to develop more of a mathematical identity. So, the metaphor, "The class is a language immersion course" came to be.
I spent some time unpacking the language of the statement analytically, to see the types of activities that would be implied. I began by taking the two key words "language" and "immersion", and wrote out all of the thoughts that come to mind when I think of them. Then, I wrote out their dictionary definitions and saw how they matched up with my thoughts. Lastly, I applied the words to more closely define the kind of environment and the types of activities that students would be engaging in through the viewpoint that this metaphor provides.
When I think of language, the first words that come to mind are:
On a slightly more complex level the thoughts that come to mind are:
That through which our ideas are formed
That through which our ideas are articulated
When I look up the definition of language, I get:
: the system of words or signs that people use to express thoughts and feelings to each other
: any one of the systems of human language that are used and understood by a particular group of people
: words of a particular kind
My immediate, quick thoughts in response to the dictionary definition are:
that “group of people” has a particular culture
the use of that language implies a certain extent of getting to know that culture
When I think of the word "immersion", the first thoughts that come to mind are:
Be completely covered in
When I look up the definition of immersion I get:
: the act of putting someone or something completely in a liquid or the state of being completely in a liquid
: complete involvement in some activity or interest
: a method of learning a foreign language by being taught entirely in that language
And my immediate thought here is to use the word in a couple of sentences:
“I have immersed myself in the study of philosophy.”
“I have totally immersed myself in The Glass Bead Game.”
In applying these thoughts on the words "language" and "immersion", when I merge them to form the phrase "language immersion", I think:
Be submerged in a place where people are only talking in the language
Thinking in the language
Implies cultural immersion
Use the language to know the language.
Apply: Implied Meanings/Activities
If my class is actually a mathematics course, then the metaphor functions in the following way:
A mathematical thinker Expresses their Thoughts and Feelings about the mathematical ideas that they are thinking and the problem solving that they are doing. Students of mathematics need to understand the Vocabulary and the Axioms [Grammar] to pose the arguments that they are constructing. They need to achieve Proficiency in the concepts and language of which the subject is comprised in order to be able to think and convey their mathematical ideas.
In order to make this happen, students are Immersed in mathematical doing by Speaking and Communicating about their questions and solutions, Listening to each other’s explanations, Writing their solutions and reflections on their work, and Reading each other’s solutions and the problems that are posed.
Developing these activities has invited students into a Culture of mathematical thinking and doing, to deepen their understanding of mathematics.