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ERIC Number: EJ1147793
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1029-8457
Grade 4 Learners' Linguistic Difficulties in Solving Mathematical Assessments
Sibanda, Lucy
African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, v21 n1 p86-96 2017
The underperformance of South African learners in literacy and numeracy is a cause of concern, especially at the transition from Grade 3 to Grade 4. At Grade 4 in South Africa, the majority of learners begin learning in English, which to them is an additional language posing transition challenges of a linguistic nature. The sustained poor performance of learners in the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) in mathematics in both primary and secondary grades since the assessments' inception in 2011 constitutes the context for this study. This study aims, through a case study approach of three Grade 4 classes of English additional language learners, to explore Grade 4 learners' linguistic difficulties in solving problems in the 2013 ANA mathematics paper. The study is informed by Vygotsky's sociocultural view of language being central to learning, which itself is a social process embedded in sociocultural settings. The study analysed 106 Grade 4 learners' written responses to the mathematics ANA questions and task-based interviews (done after the written response analysis). Findings from both analyses revealed that, for many of the questions, the language used was either unfamiliar or unnecessarily difficult for Grade 4 learners using English as an additional language. Some questions were difficult for learners because they were long and had complex grammatical patterns. The interviews revealed that learners' poor performance in the assessment was largely due to lack of proficiency in English language, especially reading and comprehending problems in the majority of the questions, exacerbated by the high linguistic complexity. Implications and recommendations from the study include the need for test designers to minimise the language complexity of test items, especially in the early transition grades of learning in English. Further research on the possibilities for allowing teachers to provide linguistic mediation to assessment questions in these transition years of learners learning in English is needed.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Grade 4; Intermediate Grades; Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A