The effects of language simplification and pictures on the ability of Emirati university students to comprehend and solve mathematics word problems

Mark Causapin (Aquinas College, Tennessee, USA)
Timothy Groombridge (Zayed University, UAE)

Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives

ISSN: 2077-5504

Article publication date: 1 December 2017

Issue publication date: 1 December 2017

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Abstract

This paper presents a study of Emirati university students learning mathematics in a second language (English). The study focused on students' responses to mathematical word problems in different versions: simpler/more complex versions of the problem in English; an Arabic translation of the problem; and the addition of a picture to support the text of the problem. Our findings suggest that neither language simplification nor pictures significantly affect students' comprehension and performance on word problem assessments; the lexical and syntactic features of the word problems have little effect on their understanding and ability to answer the questions presented to them. In addition, evidence suggests that there is no first-language (Arabic) advantage when answering these assessments. These findings are in line with previous studies that found no evidence that simplifying the language of mathematics tests had a significant positive effect on student performance. Implications on the appropriate theoretical perspectives to use when studying the relationship of language and mathematics learning are discussed. In addition, practical recommendations are presented for instructors and professors in ‘globalist’ multilingual classrooms (Barwell, 2003).

Citation

Causapin, M. and Groombridge, T. (2017), "The effects of language simplification and pictures on the ability of Emirati university students to comprehend and solve mathematics word problems", Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 3-23. https://doi.org/10.18538/lthe.v14.n2.288

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Mark Causapin and Timothy Groombridge

License

This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


Acknowledgements

Publisher's note: The Publisher would like to inform the reader that the article “The effects of language simplification and pictures on the ability of Emirati university students to comprehend and solve mathematics word problems” has changed pagination. Previous pagination was pp. 1-21. The updated pagination for the article is now pp. 3-23. The Publisher apologises for any inconvenience caused.