One speaker, two languages: Learning opportunities in the mathematics classroom

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The data reported in this article come from a large project whose goal was to explore how Latin American students in Catalonia, Spain use their two languages-Spanish and Catalan-to support their learning of mathematics in small groups with other students who are Spanish- or Catalan-dominant. For 5 years, lessons from bilingual mathematics classrooms in three public secondary schools were video-recorded and transcribed. In the presentation of findings, I discuss three language practices that emerged from the analyses of several classroom instances as follows: (1) caution with mathematical vocabulary, (2) invention of terms, and (3) word-for-word translation. One example is chosen to represent each practice and some of its situated effects. The first two examples support the view that the experience of language difficulties, either real or presumed, contributes to generating opportunities that may be beneficial to mathematics learning. The third example, where the focus on the mathematics is hindered, points to a contrasting finding. Unlike other studies in the field, which have reported the difficulties and obstacles that arise in learning and teaching due to bilingualism in the classroom, I propose a change of focus through the conceptualization of language as a potential for thinking and doing, and particularly for learning and teaching mathematics. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-66
Number of pages16
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Bilingual students
  • Classroom data
  • Language-as-resource
  • Mathematics learning opportunities


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