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Using Halliday's Functional Grammar to Examine Early Years Worded Mathematics Texts

By Keiran L. Abel and Beryl E. Exley


This paper examines the grammatical complexity of six worded mathematics texts. These texts come from a Maths worksheet (Way, 2004) and are typical of those put to early years students to assess their competencies for relating everyday experiences to mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Functional Grammar (Halliday, 1990), in particular analyses of mood type, clause structure and cohesion, is used to analyse the means of representing experience and instruction in these worded maths texts. This level of analysis exposes the grammatical complexities of these tasks. The research then maps these grammatical forms onto the outcomes of the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA, 2005) draft English Syllabus 1-10 Elaborations. The purpose of such an undertaking is to raise questions about what grammatical forms young learners might be able to bring from their experiences in subject English to the demands made of them in subject Maths. The findings reveal that worded maths texts contain distinct grammatical forms not considered as outcomes in subject English for these students. Thus this paper makes two contributions to the literature. Firstly it showcases the usefulness of functional grammar as a tool for understanding the grammatical complexity of aspects of subject specific literacies, in this case, worded maths texts. Secondly it makes a strong statement about the need for teachers to be aware of, and respond to, the specific literacy demands of discrete subject areas

Topics: 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar Phonology Lexicon Semantics), mathematical literacy, functional grammar, halliday
Publisher: AATE/ALEA
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:9864

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