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Matematik och flerspråkighet: När invandrarelever lyckas
Södertörn University, Lärarutbildningen.
2011 (Swedish)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesisAlternative title
Mathematics and multilingualism : where immigrant pupils succeed (English)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this paper is to investigate and analyze practices in multilingual classrooms of mathematics in a compulsory school in Sweden where immigrant students have been known to succeed. The school is situated in a suburban and segregated area outside a major city where pupils come from mainly limited socio-economic backgrounds. The rate of second language learners are 70% of all pupils in this school.

By using ethnographic methods, mainly interviews and participant observation, data was collected in four mathematics classrooms which corresponded to consecutive ages of education. The data include field notes and observation of artifacts in the environment as well as interviews and informal conversations with teachers and school leadership. Information from the school website, the authority in charge of quality in Swedish schools (Skolverket) and the municipality were also used.

The analysis is based on a socio-political viewpoint that power is relational and reflected within schools. According to this idea the interplay between schools/teachers and the families/students can either support or resist the support of minority groups. The didactics of mathematics are studied through concepts such as intercultural leadership, social constructivism and scaffolding. The questions in focus are: 1) What is emphasized as functional didactics in mathematics for immigrant pupils? 2) What materials are used? 3) How are the pupils’ right to study their mother tongue and bilingual teaching being fulfilled and what attitudes are held towards bilingualism? 4) Which expectations are nurtured towards pupils and 5) How are children in need of support cared for?

The findings indicate that a focus on linguistic dimensions in mathematics through the interplay between visual and practical experience builds up a didactic of a social-constructivist nature that has long been sought after in Swedish mathematics classrooms. This correlates with recent research which couples the linguistic approach to the building of a communicative reform-oriented discourse in school mathematics and shows that the success of immigrant students in classrooms of mathematics can be explained by: 1) a linguistic approach to mathematics 2) interplay in classrooms of mathematics between visual and practical materials and problem solving rarely focusing on textbooks, bringing about a didactics of a functional social-constructivist nature 3) a learning and problem solving organization where “Swedishness” (that is to say the Swedish way) is not the norm by which students are judged, including a positive approach to multilingualism 4) high expectations towards pupils and 5) teachers and the school leadership hold an inclusive approach to pupils who need support in learning compulsory school mathematics.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 56 p.
Keyword [en]
multilingual classrooms of mathematics, social constructivism, intercultural, identities, multilingualism, mathematics
Keyword [sv]
flerspråkiga matematikklassrum, meningsskapande, social konstruktivism, interkulturell, flerspråkighet, matematik
National Category
Social Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-14598OAI: diva2:476716
Subject / course
Education Studies
Social and Behavioural Science, Law
Available from: 2012-01-13 Created: 2012-01-11 Last updated: 2012-01-13Bibliographically approved

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