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The contribution of general language ability, reading comprehension and working memory to mathematics achievement among children with English as additional language (EAL): an exploratory study

Trakulphadetkrai, N. V., Courtney, L., Clenton, J., Treffers-Daller, J. and Tsakalaki, A. (2017) The contribution of general language ability, reading comprehension and working memory to mathematics achievement among children with English as additional language (EAL): an exploratory study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. ISSN 1367-0050

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2017.1373742

Abstract/Summary

An increasing number of high-stakes mathematics standardised tests around the world place an emphasis on using mathematical word problems to assess students’ mathematical understanding. Not only do these assessments require children to think mathematically, but making sense of these tests’ mathematical word problems also brings children’s language ability, reading comprehension and working memory into play. The nature of these test items places a great deal of cognitive demand on all mathematics learners, but particularly on children completing the assessments in a second language that is still developing. This paper reports findings from an exploratory study on the contribution of language to mathematics achievement among 35 children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and 31 children with English as their first language (FLE). The findings confirm the prominent role of general language ability in the development and assessment of mathematical ability. This variable explained more variance than working memory in word-based mathematics scores for all learners. Significant differences were found between the performance of FLE learners and EAL learners on solving mathematical word-based problems, but not on wordless problems. We conclude that EAL learners need to receive more targeted language support, including help with specific language knowledge needed to understand and solve mathematical word problems.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Improving Equity and Inclusion through Education
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education > Language and Literacy in Education
ID Code:66690
Publisher:Taylor & Francis

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