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Mathematics education in multicultural and multilingual environments. Report of Survey Team 5


Team chairs: Alan Bishop (Australia) - ----- Team members: Marta Civil (USA) -, Mamokgethi Setati (South Africa) -, Nuria Gorgorió (Spain) -, Maria do Carmo Santos Domite (Brazil) -




Research on ME, Practice of ME, Immigrant students, Multilingual, Multicultural, Teacher education, Ethnomathematics


Survey Team 5 has focused on four areas of research and practice developments: the mathematics teaching and learning of immigrant students; multicultural teacher education, with a particular interest in the situation of indigenous learners and teachers; pedagogical developments for teaching and learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms, and cultural conflicts in relation to ethnomathematical developments and marginalised learners.

For the topic of mathematics teaching and learning of immigrant students, Marta Civil (USA) writes: The topic of different forms of mathematics is quite prominent in research with immigrant students. and the research is documenting a deficit view on the part of teachers (not all teachers, though!), schools and the public in general, towards immigrant students and their families. The public discourse that tends to portray immigration as a problem rather than as a resource makes its way into the schools. As a result, the focus is on what immigrant students cannot do or do not know, which in most cases centers on their not knowing the language of instruction. Little research documents experiences that center on diversity and multiculturalism as a resource for learning. There is a clear need for teachers to gain a better understanding of their immigrant students’ and their families’ knowledge and experiences. Also the emphasis on language as “the problem” is promoting approaches that segregate immigrant students and bring into question issues of equity in the mathematics (and other subjects) education they are receiving.

Maria do Carmo Domite (Brazil) writes: A Brazilian perspective on mathematics education in multicultural and multilingual environments suggests that those researches, studies and practices of mathematics educators which concern multicultural and multilingual contexts, have tried to combine practice and theory based on the principles of ethnomathematics. The work, in terms of mathematics education, with the "other" culturally differentiated show that the (math) educators

have three types of attitudes. Some of them, seek/try to interpret through academic mathematics the cultural knowledge of the "other" group's mathematics. Some others remain within that cultural knowledge - helping the group to better understand their mathematical usage within

their cultural communities. Finally, others present the academic mathematics to the "other" through a reflective discussion, without the expectation of interpreting or modeling the ethnic knowledge in academic mathematics.

Mamokgethi Setati (South Africa) writes: A critical review of published research on multilingualism in mathematics education in Africa in the years 2000 – 2007 shows that while all research in this area of study identifies language as the major determinant of success in mathematics learning and comparative assessment, large-scale quantitative and small-scale qualitative studies follow disconnected paths and thus make contradictory recommendations. Large scale quantitative research argues that improving the learners’ fluency in English is critical to improving learner achievement in mathematics while small scale qualitative research argues for ways of using the learners’ home languages as a resource for learning. She highlights the paucity of research in this important area of study and proposes areas of study for future research.

Finally Alan Bishop (Australia) from the perspective of Oceania, reviews research on cultural conflicts which shows that there is an increasing interest in the situation of marginalised learners who experience cultural conflicts as a broad rather than a narrow mathematical education issue. On the other hand researchers in the region also show an increasing interest in ethnomathematical developments. As with other areas of the world, language issues are also fundamental and one key focus is on the learners’ use of their ‘home’ languages in the classroom. These aspects come together in the last trend, which is an increasing focus on research and development with indigenous, and other, communities rather than just with the classroom situation – a whole community approach to mathematics education.


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