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Medium and message : the use and development of an English mathematics register in two Maltese primary classrooms

By Marie Therese Farrugia

Abstract

The National Minimum Curriculum (NMC) of Malta recommends the use of the country’s second language, English, for the teaching of mathematics. The aim of my study was to enhance the local medium-of-instruction debate by focusing on the use and development of a mathematics register, and distinguishing between issues relevant to second-language classrooms and ones more generally applicable Assuming a social perspective of learning, I used a grounded methodology, thus generally allowing my reflections to develop out of the data I collected. The research design consisted of lesson observations in two primary classrooms and interviews with the teachers and pupils. I concluded that the use of English in class created tensions with other NMC principles; I also noted variations in the way some mathematical words were used when compared to what I might expect as part of an English mathematics register. On the other hand, the frequency of pupils’ use of mathematical vocabulary during lessons seemed to depend on the teacher’s pedagogic approach. Also applicable to general mathematics classrooms appeared to be three conditions I identified as important for word meanings to be effectively shared with pupils: frequency of use, clarity, and significance, that is, how crucial a word appeared to be when used

Topics: LB1501 Primary Education
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.bham.ac.uk:126

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Citations

  1. (1995). 7.5 Reflections on a possible Mixed Maltese English register The context-dependency of register implies that it is too simplistic to suggest that mathematics ‘should’ or can be expressed totally in English or totally in Maltese. As Camilleri
  2. (1995). According to Pimm doi
  3. (1994). Following such questions, I would expect that the role played by pupils’ language is that of offering opinions and spontaneous ideas. Indeed, ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ requests are generally intended to promote pupil talk (Clemson and Clemson,
  4. (1993). From a linguistic point of view, the mixing illustrated above complies with Myers-Scotton’s
  5. (1995). Gina’s opinion reflected an emphasis on the receptive aspect of language. However,
  6. (1996). I can say that words that were not needed were not used. This leads me to conclude that if I wish a word to be used, then I may need to create a situation where it is needed. Hewitt
  7. Multiply by Division Times Tables Multiplication Divide by Grouping Sharing
  8. (1999). Rose suggested that although the main textbook they were using at the time (a U.K. publication, Merttens and Kirkby
  9. (2000). share with others such strategies. On the other hand, accepting that code-switching can be used for mathematics implies viewing code-switching not as a problem, but as a resource (Setati and Adler,
  10. (1999). The inhibition of extended talk in class should be a source of concern for us in Malta since we are in the process of phasing in a new Mathematics Scheme for primary schools (Merttens and Kirkby,

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