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ERIC Number: EJ936469
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Aug
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0022-0663
Cognitive Benefits and Costs of Bilingualism in Elementary School Students: The Case of Mathematical Word Problems
Kempert, Sebastian; Saalbach, Henrik; Hardy, Ilonca
Journal of Educational Psychology, v103 n3 p547-561 Aug 2011
Previous research has emphasized the importance of language for learning mathematics. This is especially true when mathematical problems have to be extracted from a meaningful context, as in arithmetic word problems. Bilingual learners with a low command of the instructional language thus may face challenges when dealing with mathematical concepts. At the same time, speaking two languages can be associated with cognitive benefits with regard to attentional control processes, although such benefits have only been found in highly proficient bilinguals. In the present study, we attempted to disentangle the effects of bilingual proficiency on mathematical problem solving in Turkish-German bilingual elementary school students. We examined whether the positive cognitive effects of bilingualism could be found not only in highly proficient bilinguals but also in students with an immigrant background and a low command of the instructional or native language. Our findings emphasize the importance of language proficiency for mathematics problem solving, as shown by the predictive value of students' proficiency in the language of testing (German/Turkish) for their performance on mathematical word problems. No additional effect of the language of instruction (German) was found for problem solving in the bilingual students' native language (Turkish). Furthermore, bilinguals gained scores comparable to those of their monolingual peers on word problems that required attentional control skills although performing significantly below their monolingual classmates on ordinary word problems, suggesting that bilinguals have an advantage when it comes to attentional control. Finally, bilingual students with a relatively high command of the instructional language performed better on word problems presented in German than on those presented in Turkish, thus facing cognitive costs when transferring knowledge from one language to the other. Implications of our findings for bilingual education are discussed. (Contains 6 tables and 2 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A