About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2594-2600
Publication year: 2010
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095

Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain

TEACHING WORD PROBLEMS IN ENGLISH TO SECOND LANGUAGE GRADE 8 LEARNERS IN THE MAFUKUZELA-GANDHI CIRCUIT (KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA)

A. Pooran, P. Singh

Durban University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
According to Schafer (2005), the poor performance of South African learners in the 1995 and 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is largely ascribed to the problem that learners and educators have in studying and teaching through English as a second or even third language.

Second language learners who are already experiencing difficulty in understanding the English language may therefore be unable to develop skills to solve word problems since mathematics is being taught to them through the medium of English. This study investigates the language difficulties of second language mathematics learners, and how mathematics teachers can adapt their teaching strategies to teach word problems to second language learners.


Word problems is a section in the grade 8 mathematics syllabus that is problematic for many second language learners. The language and reading skills needed to comprehend word problems and the listening skills required to understand the teacher’s explanation of the solution are the means through which learners learn and apply mathematical concepts and skills. Many second language learners are able to solve mathematical problems when they are presented in numbers and equations but they experience difficulty in sorting and sifting out the important information when the same problem is written in words. Poor comprehension of the English language results in second language learners misunderstanding word problems.

Research has been carried out to give teachers a working knowledge of teaching mathematics to second language learners, and the strategies and techniques to make teaching effective. There is however insufficient research on the difficulties experienced by second language mathematics learners in solving word problems. This study therefore investigates the impact of the language barrier in understanding word problems, and seeks to determine what teaching strategies may be employed by mathematics educators to help second language learners solve word problems.

The theoretical framework that was used in this study is Piaget’s constructivist learning theory. Constructivism can be traced back to the eighteenth century and the work of philosopher Giambattista Vico, who maintained that humans can understand only what they have constructed themselves. Solving word problems using the constructivist learning theory requires the learner to identify and evaluate problems, then to come up with ways in which to transfer their learning to these problems.
@InProceedings{POORAN2010TEA,
author = {Pooran, A. and Singh, P.},
title = {TEACHING WORD PROBLEMS IN ENGLISH TO SECOND LANGUAGE GRADE 8 LEARNERS IN THE MAFUKUZELA-GANDHI CIRCUIT (KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA)},
series = {3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2010 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-614-2439-9},
issn = {2340-1095},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Madrid, Spain},
month = {15-17 November, 2010},
year = {2010},
pages = {2594-2600}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. Pooran AU - P. Singh
TI - TEACHING WORD PROBLEMS IN ENGLISH TO SECOND LANGUAGE GRADE 8 LEARNERS IN THE MAFUKUZELA-GANDHI CIRCUIT (KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA)
SN - 978-84-614-2439-9/2340-1095
PY - 2010
Y1 - 15-17 November, 2010
CI - Madrid, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2010 Proceedings
SP - 2594
EP - 2600
ER -
A. Pooran, P. Singh (2010) TEACHING WORD PROBLEMS IN ENGLISH TO SECOND LANGUAGE GRADE 8 LEARNERS IN THE MAFUKUZELA-GANDHI CIRCUIT (KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA), ICERI2010 Proceedings, pp. 2594-2600.
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