As teachers, we have often come across mathematical problems that are situated in real-life, curricular contexts unfamiliar to our students (e.g., a sport they have never played). In other cases, we have seen contexts that students are familiar with (e.g., a grocery store), yet the actions embedded in the context are unlikely (e.g., buying 100 watermelons). Over time, we wondered: When does the context interfere with students’ mathematical learning? How much instructional time do I invest in building the meaning for this context? How should I select contexts to use with my students, including multilingual learners?
Given students’ varied cultural, educational, and life experiences, teachers must consider how their curriculum facilitates or restricts access to mathematics and language. Moreover, teachers need to be strategic in selecting, enhancing, and introducing contexts that can expand multilingual learners’ understanding of the world. It is critical to consider the mathematics content and language as teachers create or adapt contexts from your curriculum materials.