UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Achievement and self-efficacy of students with English as a second language based on problem type in an English language-based mathematics curriculum Pel, Amanda Jean


Students who are learning English as a second language (ESL) have lower performance on mathematics problems based in language than students who are fully fluent in English. Students’ performance on word-based mathematics problems is directly related to their English reading comprehension and language fluency (Abedi & Lord, 2001; Brown, 2005; Hofstetter, 2003). This places students who are not fully fluent in English at a disadvantage in the mathematics classroom. Students’ self-efficacy beliefs also impacts their mathematics performance and motivation. The self-efficacy of students who are not fluent in English may be negatively impacted by their struggle with language. For this exploratory study, image-based mathematics problems were created to communicate problem solving questions with pictures instead of language or computational symbols. This problem format was investigated as a potential alternative to word-based or computation-based problems. Grade 6 students registered in ESL level 2, ESL level 4, and not registered in ESL, completed a mathematics task with four computation problems, four language-based problems, and four image-based problems. During a follow-up interview, students’ solution strategies and thought processes were explored further. The results of this study indicated that the inclusion of wordless mathematics problems, such as image-based problems, assisted some of the students who were learning basic English interpersonal communication skills. As nonroutine problems, image-based mathematics also encouraged complex thought and mathematics understanding. Students in ESL Level 2 demonstrated higher self-efficacy beliefs on image-based problems than word problems.

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