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Mathematical terminology in teaching and learning mathematics in African languages


Mercy Kazima, University of Malawi.




Language and mathematics, Mathematical terminology, Teaching in second language, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania


Many countries in Africa have mother tongue policies which require learners to be taught in their mother tongue for some or all the years of primary education. In this paper I discusses the implementation of such policies in relation to mathematical terminology in the teaching and learning of mathematics. I present and discuss two strategies of dealing with mathematical terminology when teaching in the mother tongue: the strategy of developing mathematics registers in the local languages and the strategy of borrowing from mathematical English. I discuss the cases of Nigeria and Tanzania as examples of the former and the case of Malawi as an example of the latter. The discussion illustrates the strengths of each strategy as well as potential problems. I conclude with a discussion of implications for Malawi specifically and for any African country in general.