24 SES 03 JS, Language Issues
Joint Paper Session NW 24 and NW 31
Today it is estimated that more than half the world speaks more than one language (Stavans & Hoffman, 2015). However, frameworks and guidelines for understanding the mathematics education of elementary age school children still reflect dominant cultures and a monolingual understanding of the world (Valencia Mazzanti & Allexsaht-Snider, in press; Gutierrez, 2017). In this paper I draw on translanguaging theory and data from a two-year qualitative study in kindergarten classrooms in the United States as a way to re-conceptualize how we understand the mathematics education of immigrant and multilingual children. I focus on a key aspect of mathematics pedagogy and instruction: number sense development. My objectives are to develop a deeper understanding of: (a) the way the language practices of multilingual children support mathematics learning (b) how using translanguaging theory to re-conceptualize mathematics education and frameworks may allow us to improve the mathematics learning of multilingual children. I seek to expand our understanding of how using language frameworks that reflect the ways of being of multilingual people allow for more generative ways of learning for multilingual students and allow for understandings that reflects the lived experiences of all people. For this purpose, I consider the following questions:
- How are multilingual children’s language practices supporting their mathematics learning?
- How is using translanguaging theory supporting our understanding of children’s mathematics learning through multilingual language practices?
To consider these questions I draw on two different theoretical frameworks, hermeneutics and translanguaging. According to Hankins (2013), “Hermeneutics as method involves a reading and interpretation of some kind of human text” (p. 8). Through hermeneutics I articulate the interpretative approach we have taken to data collection and analysis, as well as our stance towards the research presented in this paper. Moules et al. (2015) explain that “hermeneutics is organized around the disruption of the clear narrative, always questioning those things that are taken for granted.” (p. 4). I use this approach as the base to look closely at the narratives and discourses collected as data in this study.
Through translanguaging theory, I re-conceptualize the learning and language practices of the children taking place in mathematics classrooms. The term translanguaging is used to describe the language practices of bilingual and multilingual people. In other words, translanguaging is “the ability of multilingual speakers to shuttle between languages, treating the diverse languages that form their repertoire as an integrated system” (Canagarajah, 2011, p. 401). Garcia and Wei also define it as “for us translanguaging does not refer to two separate languages nor to a synthesis of different language practices or to a hybrid mixture. Rather translanguaging refers to new language practices that make visible the complexity of language exchange among people with different histories, and releases histories and understandings that had been buried within fixed language identities constrained by nation-states.” (p. 21).
The intended purpose of this presentation and discussion will be to offer new possibilities for the mathematics education of multilingual children in different educational settings around the world through the reconceptualization of their learning. By focusing on translanguaging theory and the lived experiences of multilingual children we can see that language and mathematics are intrinsically human endeavors and consequently have a history and a context. Looking at children’s mathematics learning in context and through conceptual models that account for such contexts opens up possibilities for more humane mathematics (Gutiérrez, 2012).
NOTE: Within this proposal we refer to anyone that knows more than one language as multilingual as it allows for a distinction from people who only speak one language.
This paper draws on data collected during mathematics instruction in two kindergarten classrooms in two public schools in the state of Georgia (United States) as a part of a larger study to understand the connections between mathematics and language. The focus of the study during the first school year was the bilingual students in a public school in a kindergarten classroom with a heavy Latino population. The focus of the study in the second school year was the children in an immersion bilingual program (Spanish/English) in a different public school. The children in the bilingual program were taught mathematics in Spanish and were native speakers of Spanish and/or English. During the first year of the study, I worked with Ms. Dominguez's class an average of three hours a day for two times a week for a complete school year. During the second year I worked with, Ms. Moreno, a kindergarten classroom teacher in an immersion bilingual program, during instruction (on average two times a week) for a complete school year focusing on mathematics instruction. As a part of my role in the classrooms, I taught the whole group, developing my own lessons as well as teaching lessons developed with teachers. I also worked with small groups and individual students, performed mathematics assessments, and observed and supported mathematics instruction. I also participated in other special activities the class planned, as well as some field trips and school events. I collected data through the role of a participant observer and volunteer teacher using journal entries to record significant events while also collecting student work. During the second year of the study I also introduced audio recordings for data collection as well as periodic field notes taken by a second researcher through the role of reactive observer. Data was collected and analyzed adapting the method used by Hankins (2013) in Teaching Through the Storm: A Journal of Hope. Like her I take an "interpretative/hermeneutic" approach to the data collection and analysis because of its focus on meaning and understanding. Insight and understanding of the mathematics learning and language practices of the children was gained through the in-depth analysis of events rendered into text and carefully looked at from the perspective of translanguaging theory. Written events were carefully analyzed within their own boundaries and in relation to others as way to gain insight into how children were supporting their mathematics learning through language.
This research study centered around two different questions: 1) How are multilingual children's languages practices supporting their mathematics learning? 2) How is using translanguaging theory supporting our understanding of children's mathematics learning through multilingual language practices? This responds to the need to problematize and ground one's understanding of language when doing research at the intersection of language and mathematics (Moschkovich 2010, 2017). Through the interpretative analysis of the qualitative data collected in the kindergarten classrooms I provide insight into the language practices of multilingual students when developing number sense. I found that conceptualizing the ways translanguaging frames language and the language practices of multilingual people was one of the most significant ways of making the languages in mathematics classrooms visible. Taking an in depth look at the lived experiences of multilingual children allowed me to reflect on the extent of language expertise and experiences young students are having in the mathematics classroom. It is clear there is a need to think about languages in ways beyond those that were evident with a translanguaging lens. When observing young children's mathematics learning it became apparent that there was also the language of mathematics which was experienced as highly symbolic by our students who were making connections across mental processes through the language offered by mathematics. A clear instance in which this was reflected was number sense, where children were connecting different language processes, utilizing more than one language, to the number words and number word sequences they were learning and utilizing as part of the kindergarten mathematics curriculum.
Canagarajah, S. (2011). Codemeshing in academic writing: Identifying teachable strategies of translanguaging. Modern Language Journal, 95(3), 401-417. García, O., & Li, W. (2014). Translanguaging: Language, bilingualism and education (Palgrave pivot). Gutiérrez, R. (2012). Embracing "Nepantla:" Rethinking knowledge and its use in teaching. REDIMAT-Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 1(1), 29-56. Gutiérrez, R. (2017). Why mathematics education was late to the backlash party: The need for a revolution. Journal of Urban Mathematics Education, 10(2), 8-24 Moschkovich, J. (2010). Language and Mathematics Education: Multiple Perspectives and Directions for Research. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2010. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost Moschkovich, J. (2017). "Revisiting Early Research on Early Language and Number Names." EURASIA Journal of Mathematics Science and Technology Education 13, no. 7b (2017):4143-4156. DOI10.12973/eurasia.2017.00802a Moules, N., McCaffrey, G., Field, J., & Laing, C. (2015). Conducting hermeneutic research: From philosophy to practice (Critical qualitative research; v. 19). Hankins, K. H. (2003). Teaching through the storm: A journal of hope. New York: Teachers College. Sṭavans, A., & Hoffmann, C. (2015). Multilingualism. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, . Valencia Mazzanti, C, & Allexsaht-Snider, M. (In press) ¿Es lo mismo? Bilingual Counting for Developing Number Sense. In I. Goffney & R. Gutierrez (Eds.), Annual perspectives in mathematics education (APME) 2018: Rehumanizing mathematics for students who are black, indigenous, and/or latin@/x.
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