Review Article

Language and multilingualism in the teaching and learning of mathematics in South Africa: A review of literature in Pythagoras from 1994 to 2021

Kathryn McLachlan, Anthony A. Essien
Pythagoras | Vol 43, No 1 | a669 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v43i1.669 | © 2022 Kathryn McLachlan, Anthony A. Essien | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 November 2021 | Published: 22 July 2022

About the author(s)

Kathryn McLachlan, Mathematics Education Division, Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Anthony A. Essien, Mathematics Education Division, Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

This article presents a systematic review of research on language and multilingualism in mathematics education published in the South African journal Pythagoras from 1994 to 2021. This time frame was chosen as the year 1994 marked the acknowledgement of 11 official languages in the new democratic South Africa (including 9 indigenous languages), compared to only Afrikaans and English during the apartheid era. The review considers emergent themes in the included articles and examines what the articles reveal about mathematics education in South Africa. In addition to other findings, our corpus of literature indicates that research in this field of mathematics has been mostly undertaken in under-resourced schools and that research under the theme of multilingual education is at the forefront of research in South African mathematics education, while research on language policy needs more attention. Research on multilingual education in our corpus of literature also reveals great awareness of the value of seeing language as a resource, as well as the benefits that accrue when learners’ home languages are taken into account in mathematics teaching and learning. The gaps in research in the field of language and multilingualism in the teaching and learning of mathematics are also noted and recommendations for future research are made.

Keywords

Language and mathematics; multilingualism; language orientations; language-as-resource; language-responsive teaching

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