Announcing the Mathspeak project: Helping non-native speakers succeed at maths

26th October 2018

Cherryleaf is part of an international partnership that has been awarded a grant under the 2018 Erasmus+ Key Action 201 Strategic Partnerships project. The Mathspeak project is a partnership between European educational practitioners and the creators of educational materials.

Funded by the European Commission, this project aims to provide non-native language speaking students with the means by which they can do maths better.

Why this project is needed

Because mathematics is usually communicated in symbols, you might think it doesn’t require a lot of language skills.

When students study mathematics in a foreign language, the language itself adds layers of difficulty to something that Is already abstract and opaque. Research shows that students don’t perform at mathematics as well as they could.

You may be able to write sums in symbols, but you need words and grammar to speak them and understand them when they are spoken.

What Mathspeak will provide

The objective of the Mathspeak project is to produce a language learning resource for secondary school students that will enable them to perform in mathematics in a foreign language at the same level they do in their native language.

The Mathspeak products will enable students to verbally express mathematical concepts appropriate to their age groups, put number problems into words, and handle mathematical terminology with confidence.

The educational material will help tackle academic underachievement, alienation and disaffection, which can lead to students leaving school at an early age.

Who this will affect

Our target groups are students at intermediate and pre-intermediate levels of competence in a foreign language. They are in Years 8-12 at high school, or in further education.

They are either:

  • Immigrants
  • International students in foreign language speaking institutions
  • Students in a country or institution where the language of maths instruction is not the mother tongue, or
  • Students in their home countries learning a foreign language.

It is expected that between 100-150 teachers and students will take part directly in the various Mathspeak project activities. The participants will influence the content and style of the language course the project will produce.

The multilingual aspect of Mathspeak

The project comprises multinational partners working in secondary education and speaking a wide variety of European languages.

Timescales

This two-year project starts in October 2018. It will be completed in September 2020.

The expected outcomes

For students

We expect that:

  • Participating students will improve both their foreign language skills and their performance in mathematics.
  • As a result, their motivation will increase, and this will bring them more academic success.
  • Any success will also have a positive influence on non-participating individuals in the target groups.
  • The students’ improved linguistic and mathematical skills will help them when they start work or move onto tertiary level education.

For teachers

Participating mathematics teachers will get:

  • An insight into their students’ educational needs.
  • An awareness of the linguistic issues that are frequently at the heart of resistance to the mathematics.

As a result, the teachers will develop their own professional skills.

For schools

Partner schools will:

  • Strengthen ties with similar organizations in other countries.
  • Get a useful teaching resource that can be adapted to teach any language.
  • Meet a need that is not currently being met.

We hope this project will stimulate the creation of complementary educational resources.

For policy makers

We want to bring mathematical education to the attention of the policy makers who can affect the curriculums.

We also hope to influence people involved in the writing of maths and foreign language syllabuses, so that mathematical language gets built into the daily teaching of secondary level mathematics to non-native speakers.

Assessing its success

The project’s success will be assessed in a number of ways:

  • Participants will be tested before and after using Mathspeak. The tests will be available for use in the future by other organisations.
  • We will also measure the number of additional pupils participating in the e-course after the end of the pilot stage.
  • We also hope for feedback from officials and educationalists who, influenced by the projects results, tell us that they have added mathematical language to their maths and foreign language syllabuses.
  • We will record the number of downloads of the teaching materials, and the number of visitors to the website.
  • We will also conduct a general satisfaction survey at the end of the project.

The participating organisations

The participating organisations are:

  • Cherryleaf Ltd (UK)
  • ldris Education Limited (UK)
  • Danmar Computers sp z .o.o. (Poland)
  • VIVA FEMINA (Poland)
  • Colegiul tehnic “loan C. Stefanescu” (Romania)
  • 2nd HIGH SCHOOL OF SERRES (Greece)
  • Istituto Superiore E. Mattel (Italy)
  • PGO “Nedka Ivan Lazarova” (Bulgaria)

Cherryleaf will bring its skill technical documentation and project management skills to co-ordinate the project.

Idris Education will use its expertise in writing English language teaching courses to produce the blueprint material.

For more information

You can keep updated with the project’s progress:

  • We will be building an external project website, written in English, with links to the project partners. The website will allow visitors to join a mailing list, so you can receive information about the availability of the products.
  • There will be a Mathspeak Facebook page in all the partners’ languages. Interested stakeholders will be contacted by messaging the relevant Facebook groups.
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* The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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