Constructing comprehension on math assignments in interaction.

J. Prenger (1), C.M. de Glopper (2), H.I. Hacquebord (2)

(1) Expertisecentrum taal, onderwijs en communicatie (Etoc) - University of Groningen, Netherlands, The (2) Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, Netherlands, The

WS172: Discourse in the multicultural school

In the Netherlands mathematics education has been highly influenced by Realistic Mathematics Education, which means that mathematical problems are presented in rich linguistic contexts. This innovation in mathematics teaching puts a great demand on pupil’s text comprehension abilities and their language proficiency: pupils have to make a correct representation of the problem in order to solve the mathematical problem.

Research has shown that pupils from ethnic minorities and pupils with weak language skills find it difficult to cope with this increase in language use (Van den Boer, 2003): they achieve lower marks and have difficulty with the words and cohesive devices in the mathematics texts. De Wit (2000) suggested that the cause of these disappointing results may lie in the fact that mathematics has become much more ‘linguistic’ since the introduction of Realistic Mathematics. Van den Boer (2003) concludes the same.

Leading on from these results, we examined the effects of these ‘linguistic’ mathematics assignments on the pupil's understanding of mathematical texts and their way of problem solving. The research questions are: How do pupils discursively construct their comprehension when solving a maths task within the field of graphs? And What differences in the construction of text comprehension can be observed in relationship to the ethnic background of the pupils?

In the presentation of the results we will analyse the way in which the pupils construct mathematical meaning and rely more or less on the interaction with the researcher. The data to be discussed are transcribed dyadic interactions between a researcher and a pupil. In these sessions the pupils were asked to solve a mathematical task related to the subject matter discussed in the classroom (graphs). The research is carried out in the first grades of two secondary schools. We assume that both first and second language pupils have to cope with the difficulties of the mathematical register.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Discourse in the multicultural school
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 16