H. Rocha

Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (PORTUGAL)
The professional knowledge is a key element of the teacher’s practice. This knowledge is naturally influenced by the teacher’s beliefs and conceptions and by his training, but the context where he develops his practice is perhaps the most decisive influence. At this level, the school where the teacher works and his colleagues are a powerful influence, but the characteristics of his students are even a stronger influence. The cultural diversity of the students and specifically the linguistic diversity are highly relevant elements. A classroom where different languages converge is always a complex context which requires a deeper professional knowledge with inevitable repercussions over the teacher’s practice.

This study focuses on a teacher working with a mathematics’ class of foreign students with heavy linguistic limitations on the language of instruction and it intends to analyze the impact of this context on the teacher’s practice. In particular, it intends to analyze how this context interferes with the characteristics of the tasks proposed by the teacher and with the way how mathematical concepts are presented to the students.

The study adopts a qualitative and interpretative methodological approach, undertaking one teacher case study. Data were collected during one school year by semi-structured interviews, class observation, and documental data gathering. All interviews and classes observed were audio taped and transcribed. Data analysis was conducted in an interpretative way.

The conclusions reached point to an increase on the appreciation of mechanization, to a large reduction in the use of problematic situations and to a presentation of Mathematics as calculation, disconnected from any application, and where reasoning appears as a marginal element or is even missing. The use of several examples becomes a key element of the practice of this teacher. The main finding of this study suggests that language limitations caused a strong impact on the practice of a teacher who considers the understanding and the development of reasoning from the discussion around mathematical ideas as central to the teaching of this subject. It was also possible to identify that the need to find a way to communicate reinforced the formalism of the mathematical language, placing it in the center of the learning process.