NESB migrant students studying mathematics

Year: 1995

Author: Clarkson, Philip, Dawe, Lloyd

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper describes the beginning of a longitudinal project which is studying bilingual Arabic, Vietnamese and Italian migrant children studying grade 4 mathematics in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. The project has drawn on the work of Cummins which suggests that bilingual students who are competent in both their languages should have a cognitive advantage over students who are competent in only one of their two languages, or in neither of their languages. We aim to check to see whether this assertion applies to our migrant students. However we are also particularly interested in why students switch between their languages when processing mathematical problems. What may prompt a bilingual student to switch languages? How often does it occur? Does it depend on the mathematical context? What changes might occur as the student progresses through the primary school? This paper will comment on particular research difficulties which arose during the pilot phase of the project and how they were overcome, and report initial findings from the first phase of data collection.