From a Teacher's Perspective: The Interaction of Mathematics, Language, and Manipulatives
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Three language-based factors influence a student's ability to function successfully in a formal classroom environment: 1) student language, 2) teacher language, and 3) curriculum language (Gruenewald & Pollak, 1990). Students are surrounded by language, even in the mathematics classroom. Teachers and students use language to engage in discourse, i.e., discussions to exchange ideas and explain mathematical concepts and solution strategies. Some students may have difficulty participating in discourse, for example, students with language-learning disabilities or language impairments. To facilitate students' understanding of the language involved in mathematics, some teachers use manipulatives, or concrete objects. Manipulatives enable students to connect language to the concepts they are learning. Prior research has focused on the different types and effectiveness of manipulatives employed in classrooms, however little research exists on the language used when manipulatives are incorporated into math lessons. Through a qualitative research design, using semi-structured, ethnographic interviews and classroom observations, this study 1) explored the interactive relationship between manipulatives and language, and 2) described two elementary school teachers' perspectives on classroom discourse and how manipulatives help students understand the language used in the mathematics classroom. Data analysis included an axial coding approach, where major themes and sub-themes were identified. Some major themes present in teacher interviews included repeated exposure, developing conceptual understanding, peer learning, and math talk. Some differences noted between the participants included that Participant 1 utilized a direct teaching and modeling approach with manipulatives whereas Participant 2 implemented an investigate and explore approach. Participant 2 often modified his language when students appeared confused and did not understand. In contrast, Participant 1 often repeated the same phrase or question, only changing the vocabulary she used. Through reflective discussions SLPs and teachers can collaborate to scaffold teacher and student language in math classrooms to increase student success in mathematics.
Language arts (Early childhood)
Language arts (Elementary)
Mathematics--Study and teaching (Early childhood)
Mathematics--Study and teaching (Elementary)