Mathematics, Vol. 9, Pages 564: The Verbal Component of Mathematical Problem Solving in Bilingual Contexts by Early Elementary Schoolers

Research paper by Pilar Ester, Isabel Morales, Álvaro Moraleda, Vicente Bermejo

Indexed on: 14 Mar '21Published on: 06 Mar '21Published in: Mathematics


The main aim of the present study is to analyze the differences that may exist when students address the resolution of verbal problems in their mother tongue and in the language of instruction when these are different. We understand that knowing the type of verbal problems and their semantic structure can be helpful for students’ contextual and mathematical understanding and will allow teachers to improve instruction during the first years of elementary education in bilingual schools specialized in the area of second language acquisition as well as in CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning). This study shows how children, as they are acquiring a greater command of the second language, show similar effectiveness to those students who work on mathematics in their mother tongue. This transversal study was conducted on 169 bilinguals studying in international schools. The sample was made up of 80 1st grade students (39 girls, mean age of 7.1 years and 41 boys, mean age of 7.3 years); and 89 2nd grade students (38 girls, mean age 8.2 years, and 51 boys, mean age 8.2 years). The exploratory analyses let us show how 1st grade students demonstrate lower effectiveness in solving problems when they do it in a second language, compared to 2nd grade students whose effectiveness is higher in carrying them out. It is also relevant that in first graders, the largest number of errors are found in the simplest tasks as students’ effectiveness is less when they are taught in a second language, since it takes them longer to create effective resolution models. This fact will allow us to reconsider appropriate strategies and interventions when teaching mathematics in bilingual contexts.