An investigation of how language affects the teaching and learning of mathematics for English second learners in five FET schools within Mtubatuba district, in Northern KwaZulu-Natal: a particular focus on word problems.
Sithole, Maureen Phathisiwe.
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of this study was to investigate how language affected the teaching and learning of mathematics for English second language (ESL) learners in five Further Education and Training (FET) schools in Northern KwaZulu-Natal, with a particular focus on word problems (WPs). In 2010, fifteen learners (nine boys and six girls) doing mathematics grade 11 from five different FET schools from Mtubatuba District in Northern Kwazulu-Natal participated in the study. Five teachers teaching the same learners from these five schools were also the participants in this study. The researcher’s teaching experience of eleven years as an FET mathematics teacher had taught her that many English second language learners were not able to correctly translate word problems into mathematical equation. This was what motivated the researcher to conduct a study on the impact of English to the teaching and learning of mathematics, especially Word Problems. The study was mostly framed around theory of Social Constructivism. The research instruments used in the study were: learner worksheets, learner interviews (individual and group interviews), teacher questionnaires and lesson observations. Some common challenges in the teaching of WPs were drawn from the analysis of the teachers’ responses: Many learners are unable to translate English statements into mathematical equations. The manner in which WPs are phrased generally pose some problems for many learners. There is lack of mathematics vocabulary such as ‘consecutive’, ‘twice as much as’, ‘doubled and then added to’, ‘squared’. From the learners’ responses, the following could be deduced as challenges in learning WPs: There is very little exposure of learners to word problems. Failure to write English statements mathematically. Less exposure to English due to teachers accepting the use of isiZulu more than English during teaching and learning. Too much wording in the WPs which ends up confusing. Little exposure to mathematical terms such as ‘consecutive’, ‘integers’. Both teachers and learners gave some strategies that they thought could help in the teaching of WPs, namely: Giving more time for learners to construct mathematical statements on their own. Engaging in one-on-one teaching with some struggling learners. Code-switching from English to isiZulu when necessary. Letting learners work through the worked examples first for proper understanding. Rephrasing the problem and breaking it into sections. Use of diagrams and illustrations. Giving learners more activities on WPs.