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Integrating Language Development and Content Learning in Math: Focus on Reasoning


This is an archived course. This course is provided as a resource which you are welcome to access as you see fit, but it is not possible to earn a Statement of Accomplishment at this time. If you would like to earn a Statement of Accomplishment, a newer offering may be provided in the future on the Stanford Lagunita course listing page.

About This Course

New learning standards for math emphasize the importance of developing students’ abilities to reason and articulate reasoning across a variety of topics in math. Starting October 3, Jeff Zwiers, Phil Daro, and Shelbi Cole will offer a free online professional development course, Integrating Language Development and Content Learning in Math: Focus on Reasoning, to help teachers improve their design and development of learning activities that foster mathematical reasoning and its language.

The sessions will zoom in on different language modes and how they can foster students’ abilities to reason and describe their reasoning. Sessions focus on listening, speaking, whole class conversations, small group and pair conversations, reading, and writing. We provide a design tool and plenty of practice using it in order to strengthen the language development potential of a wide range of math teaching activities. The course also includes instructional activities and routines to be used across lessons and units to meet the linguistic and cultural needs of English learners and other students who struggle with the language demands of learning math.

This course consists of seven online sessions, with three weeks or so between each session. Each session includes expert video screencasts, reflection prompts, classroom video clips, readings, resources, and assignments that will prompt participants to use what they learn in their classrooms and reflect on student language use. Participants are free to complete the session tasks at their own pace as long as they finish them within the allotted time. Teachers (K-12) will learn how:

  • Authentic communication in the math classroom accelerates both language and content development
  • To model and strengthen activities for reasoning and its language
  • To integrate and leverage different language modes in one activity
  • To formatively assess language and reasoning to improve instruction


There is no pre-requisites for the course. Classroom teachers and instructional coaches from grades K to 12 who teach math are welcome and encouraged to take this course together with their colleagues.

Course Instructors

Course Staff Image #1

Jeff Zwiers

Dr. Jeff Zwiers is the Director of Professional Development at Understanding Language at Stanford Graduate School of Edcuation. He has worked for more than fifteen years as a professional developer and instructional mentor in urban school settings, emphasizing the development of literacy, thinking, and academic language for linguistically and culturally diverse students. He has published books and articles on reading, thinking, and academic language. His most recent book is Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk That Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings. His current work focuses on developing teachers’ core practices for teaching academic language, comprehension of complex texts, and oral communication skills across subject areas. He holds a BA in Psychology from Stanford, an MAT in Language and Reading from Stanford, and a PhD in Education from USF.

Course Staff Image #2

Phil Daro

Dr. Phil Daro is a mathematics educator who most recently co-directed the development of the Common Core State Standards for mathematics. He has also directed large-scale teacher professional development programs for the University of California including the California Mathematics Project and the American Mathematics Project. He is Site Director of the Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) at the San Francisco Unified School District. Steering Committee, Math Work Group (chair), and District Engagement Committee.

Course Staff Image #2

Shelbi Cole

Dr. Shelbi Cole is a Senior Content Specialist on the Mathematics team at Student Achievement Partners. Prior to joining the team, Shelbi was the Director of Mathematics for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. She was a high school mathematics teacher and has worked on a range of projects in curriculum development, teacher professional learning, and pre-service teacher education. Shelbi holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Mathematics Education and a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Will I receive any completion document upon finishing the course?

Participants who complete the course requirement will be eligible to receive a Statement of Accomplishment after the course ends.

How many professional development hours is this course equivalent to?

We estimate that the coursework is equivalent to approximately 40 professional development hours to individuals who complete the course and gain a Statement of Accomplishment.

Can my work in this course be accepted by a school district??

Stanford University makes no representations that participation in the course, including participation leading to a record of completion, will be accepted by any school district or other entity as evidence of professional development. Participants are solely responsible for determining whether participation in the course, including obtaining a record of completion, will be accepted by a school district, or any other entity, as evidence of professional development coursework.