24 SES 03 B, Mathematical Discourse
The development of a language repertoire in school mathematics is dependent on opportunities to participate within functional settings where explicit focus on how different linguistic choices in mathematics can give different meaning to the text (Morgan, 2002). It is therefore of importance to find out more precisely what language dimensions that characterize school mathematics, and if these differ between domains within mathematics. Secondly it is important to identify if there are language dimensions that will be a hindrance or a scaffold for different groups of students.
The study presented in this paper is part of a larger study of the academic language of school mathematics, and its significance for students’ reading of mathematical items in order to solve them. Three sub-studies will analyze various aspects of the academic language in school mathematics such as linguistic features, visualizations and mathematical symbols. In this first sub-study linguistic features will be in focus concerning mathematical items in the international study The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Much research done concerning linguistic features has focused the language of mathematics as a whole, and not looked at different domains within mathematics. Here the mathematical domains algebra, data and chance, geometry, and number, will be focused. Using a large scale study like TIMSS, it is possible to investigate the significance of language in a systematic manner for different domains within mathematics, and also for different groups of students. The study aims to
- identify characteristic linguistic features in mathematical items such as those in TIMSS
- examine which, and to what extent, linguistic features influence the results in TIMSS 2011 for different groups of Swedish 8th grade students.
Firstly the study is based on a social semiotic perspective as it is developed in systemic functional linguistics (SFL) (Halliday, 2004) in order to deal with the first aim. A text and its features are seen as a realization of the context of situation, and thus reflecting the social order. In different social contexts, different registers of language are used. In SFL such registers are described as a configuration of what the text is about (field of discourse), personal relationships in the text (tenor of discourse), and how the text is structured (mode of discourse) (Halliday & Hasan, 1989). By using register as a base for the linguistic analysis the results will be more generally applicable for different languages. The register continuum for field of discourse spans from commonsense and everyday aspects to technical and specialized. The register tenor of discourses goes from personal and informal aspects to formal and objective. The mode continuum covers less complicated and unpacked language to more complicated and packed language.
Secondly a reception theoretical perspective (for a school context see e.g. Langer, 2011; Liberg et al, 2013; Luke & Freebody, 1999) is used to deal with the second aim. In such a perspective the text as such or the language of the text is not seen as inherently cognitive demanding. The cognitive demands are relative the encounter between the reader and the text within a specific context, i.e. no task can be called cognitively demanding out of context (Schleppegrell, 2004). Of importance are the reader’s experiences and knowledge of the language used, the reader’s pre-knowledge of and interest in the content of the text, and of reading such texts and participating in practices where such texts are read (e.g. Liberg, 2001). In this study the result performed by four different groups of students will be investigated, concerning language background and thereby presumed skills in the language of the test, as well as high or low performance on the test.
Halliday, Michael. A. K. & Hasan, Ruqaiya (1989). Language, context, and text: aspects of language in a social-semiotic perspective. 2. ed. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Halliday, Michael. A. K. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. 3. ed. London: Arnold. Langer, Judith A. (2011). Envisioning knowledge: building literacy in the academic disciplines. New York: Teachers College Press. Liberg, Caroline (2001). Svenska läromedelstexter i ett andraspråksperspektiv - möjligheter och begränsningar. I: Nauclér, Kerstin (red.) Symposium 2000 – Ett andraspråksperspektiv på lärande. Nationellt centrum för sfi och svenska som andraspråk. Stockholm: Sigma Förlag. S. 108-128. Liberg, Caroline, af Geijerstam, Åsa, Wiksten Folkeryd, Jenny, Bremholm, Jesper, Hallesson, Yvonne & Holtz, Britt-Maria. (2012). Textrörlighet - ett begrepp i rörelse.. I: Synnøve Matre och Atle Skaftun (red.), Skriv! Les! 1. Paper presented at Skriv! Les! Nordisk forskerkonferanse om skriving og lesing. Trondheim: Akademika forlag. S. 65-81. Luke, Allan & Freebody, Peter (1999). Further notes on the Four Resources Model. Reading online. http://www.readingonline.org/research/lukefreebody.html [downloaded 2012-02-13]. Morgan, Candia (2002). The linguistic construction of social identities in mathematical communities: A Critical Linguistic Approach to Mathematical Text. In Myrdene Andersson: Educational Perspectives on Mathematics as Semiosis: From thinking to interpreting to knowing. Ottawa: Legas. Schleppegrell, Mary J. (2004). The language of schooling; a functional linguistics perspective. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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