Module 8

The relevance of language for mathematics education

General overview and aimRelevant topicsLearning OutcomesDownloads

For students of all backgrounds (both mono-lingual and multilingual students) it is important to develop the subject-specific (academic) language of mathematics. This language is needed for conceptual understanding and ‘meaning-making’ in mathematics. The development of subject-specific language can be facilitated by adopting a language-sensitive approach to mathematics.

The module will introduce teachers at ITE (initial teacher education) to the relevance of language in mathematics and provide them with background and tools to teach mathematics in a language-oriented (or language-sensitive) way. Although multilingual students will encounter other and maybe more problems than monolingual students, this approach is aimed to benefit all students in developing their mathematical proficiency.

This module is part of:

  • Mathematics and Science Subject dimension: (inter)cultural perspectives on the subjects themselves;
  • Mathematics and Science Education dimension: pedagogical issues, in particular in respect to dealing with diversity in classrooms.

In this module the main focus in on making pre-service teachers aware of the relevance of language for learning (and teaching) mathematics by providing them with examples, theory and tools. Relevant topics in this module are:

  • The distinction between ‘everyday’ language, school-language and the language of mathematics
  • Some background and characteristics of language-sensitive mathematics teaching
  • The relevance of interaction, contexts and language-support for the learning of (the language of) mathematics
  • Tools to analyse teaching materials and classroom interaction (scaffolding) on the use and support of language in mathematics teaching
  • Tools and activities to make their mathematics teaching language – sensitive by designing appropriate lessons and teaching activities

Through this module prospective teachers will:

  • understand difficulties student face with language in mathematics (especially multilingual students)
  • become aware of the role and relevance of language (everyday language, school language and subject-specific language of mathematics) in mathematics education
  • get knowledge about the approach of language-sensitive mathematics teaching and its tools
  • become able to analyze the role of language in classroom materials and teaching practice
  • learn to value the role of various representations and visualizations as a bridge for understanding and developing language skills in mathematics education
  • get to know and use scaffolding strategies to support students in language-sensitive mathematics lessons
  • design classroom activities that support language proficiency as well as mathematical understanding