English in mathematics : Swedish EFL students’ and teachers’ experiences with learning and teaching mathematics in English
Sammanfattning: This study is intended to explore what difficulties students and teachers in international and IB programs in Sweden encounter when they learn and teach mathematics in English. Students enrolled in these programs tend to have English as a second or foreign language, and their being taught mathematics in a language that is not their native language might limit their understanding and the possibility to communicate and express themselves in the subject. The mathematics teachers’ language proficiency and the way they approach language problems play a significant role too. The data for this study comes from individual interviews with two teachers and four group interviews with students from different secondary and upper-secondary schools in Sweden, all of whom speak English as a foreign language expect for the native English-speaking teacher. The result shows that most of the language difficulties the students encounter in mathematics education are related to vocabulary. However, mathematical word problems were an issue too, and that was something the teachers also confirmed. The teachers used various methods to facilitate the use of English in mathematics and they too experienced some difficulties teaching it, like using the right vocabulary. However, despite the language-related difficulties the students encountered during their learning and the language-related difficulties teachers encountered with their teaching, both teachers agreed that language is not the main problem; rather, it is mathematics itself, and no matter what language mathematics it is taught in, the main issue will always, at first hand be mathematics and not language, which is something that some researchers do not agree with.
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