Decoding the language in and the language of mathematics : implications for assessment

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Publication Details

Author list: Padayachee P, Steyn S

Place: Marmaris

Publication year: 2018


It is often said that “number people” don’t need to be “language people”, yet the impact of low levels of literacy and language proficiency on the teaching of subjects such as mathematics, physics and chemistry has increasingly become a prominent cause for concern. Within the South African context, where the language policy of the education sector is seemingly at odds with the country’s multilingual landscape, addressing this issue is not an easy fix. The way we view the relationship between language and learning needs to be comprehensive and in-depth enough if we are to adequately address this concern. In addition to proficiency in the language of instruction, the level of academic literacy, the semantic complexity of the content and the level of conceptual understanding of subject content are some of the factors that play a part in a student’s academic performance. This study will look at the language in and the language of mathematics and its implications within the context of education. The grade 12 National Senior Certificate examination papers for mathematics – as an artefact representing the academic expectations at exit-level –will be used to examine the interplay of different skill sets in the assessment. In addition to the value of this research to the assessment and instruction of mathematics at high school level, the results of this research may be applicable to various educational contexts.


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Education, Mathematics

Last updated on 2018-14-11 at 15:17