Language diversity in the mathematics classroom: does a learner companion make a difference?
Language and education are interrelated because all teaching is given through the medium of language. Language is considered to be both a precondition for thought and a bearer of thought and therefore influences the extent to which a child’s intelligence is actualised. In the South African context linguistic diversity is a complex issue. It has increasingly become the task and responsibility of educators to develop strategies in an attempt to facilitate quality education for their learners. In this study, the researchers developed an ‘aid’ that would assist learners to relate mathematics terms and concepts in English with terms in their own languages. The study determined whether a visual multilingual learner companion brought change in learners’ performance in mathematics. Also what the educators’ views were about this. A combination of a quasiexperimental study and an interview schedule was conducted. The quasiexperimental study was conducted among learners while the interview schedule was with their educators. The sample comprised 2,348 learners in Grade 4, Grade 5 and Grade 6 from 20 schools as well as 20 educators from the treatment schools. The results indicated that the mathematics marks of the treatment group improved. Also, the educators were complimentary about the learner companion and indicated that they would utilise this going forward in their teaching. It is recommended that the multilingual visual explanatory mathematics learner companion be used and investigated on a larger scale to corroborate the efficacy reported here.
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