On the process of gaining language as a resource in mathematics education

Núria Planas, Mamokgethi Setati-Phakeng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014, FIZ Karlsruhe. In this paper, we expand our prior work on mathematics education in contexts of language diversity by elaborating on the three perspectives on language described by Ruiz (NABE J 8(2):15–34, 1984): language-as-right, language-as-resource, and language-as-problem. We illustrate our arguments with data taken from research contexts in Catalonia-Spain and South Africa. In these two parts of the world, the language policy in education has long been an issue, with a monolingual orientation that values one language (i.e., Catalan in Catalonia and English in South Africa) over others. Throughout the introduction of specific examples of policy documents, classroom practices, and participants’ reports, our main point is that the right of using the students’ languages makes sense because it is itself more than an intrinsic human right; it is an option that potentially benefits the creation of mathematics learning opportunities. Especially for the instances of classroom practices, our examples can be considered as representative in that they point to a common situation in our data: despite the fact of the language of learning and teaching being fixed, there is room for the learners and the teacher to take or react to a decision on what language to use, with whom, and how in concrete moments of the interaction. However, on the basis of our studies and drawing on the literature in mathematics education and language diversity, we argue that language rights are not sufficiently connected to language as a pedagogical resource. The enactment of these rights is still contributing in many ways to the social and political construction of problems concerning the role of certain languages in classroom interaction. We conclude the paper by discussing some possibilities for framing language as a resource that provide effective support to all students’ learning of mathematics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)883-893
JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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