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).
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
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Copyright © 2017 Mark Causapin and Timothy Groombridge
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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.