Creating words in mathematics

Galligan, Linda (2016) Creating words in mathematics. Australian Mathematics Teacher, 72 (1). pp. 21-30. ISSN 0045-0685

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A National Numeracy Report (COAG, 2008) and the Australian Curriculum (2014) have recognised the importance of language in mathematics. The general capabilities contained
within the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics (2014) highlight literacy as an important tool in the teaching and learning of mathematics, from the interpretation of word problems to the discussion of mathematics in the classroom. The nationally commissioned National Numeracy Report (COAG, 2008), recommended that the language and literacies of mathematics be explicitly taught since language can be a significant barrier to understanding mathematics.
As teachers routinely assess students’ understanding of mathematics through literacy (often through reading and writing), students may struggle to understand the mathematics because they have specific language difficulties associated with assessment tasks set. Chapter 2 of the National Numeracy Review Report (COAG, 2008) highlights the role of language in mathematics
learning, and identifies a number of features of language that can have an impact on understanding mathematics. These include:

1. The mathematics register: the words, phrases and associated meanings used to express mathematical ideas (Halliday, 1978). This includes the etymology of
the words of mathematics as well as the syntax, semantics, orthography and phonology of the language itself and its impact on understanding mathematics (Galligan, 2001).
2. Language in the classroom: the use of language by teachers to communicate ideas and the dialogue used by students to communicate and learn mathematics
(Leung, 2005; Sullivan, 2011; Walshaw & Anthony, 2008). This language use is particularly difficult for English language learners (Adoniou & Yi, 2014).
3. Technical communication: the accepted standard use of language and symbols to communicate mathematical ideas, both orally and in written form. There are Australian Standards on how to write much of the quantitative information in scientific and technical reports, and also in trade and industry (Australian Government, n.d.).

This article focuses on one part of the first feature; that is, words in mathematics, their derivation and meaning.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Published version deposited with publisher's permission.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Agricultural, Computational and Environmental Sciences
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2016 05:51
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016 05:52
Fields of Research : 13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130208 Mathematics and Numeracy Curriculum and Pedagogy
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2004 Linguistics > 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9302 Teaching and Instruction > 930201 Pedagogy

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