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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Early arithmetic skills in children with English as a second language Kerr, Zuzana


The goal of the present longitudinal study was to compare the mathematical achievement of primary school students from recent inimigrant families who had English as a Second Language (ESL) to the mathematical achievement of native English-speaking students. Of 97 children participating in this study, 32 were ESL speakers with first generation immigrant parents, and 65 were English speakers. The children participated over four years, from Kindergarten to Grade 3. In each grade, children completed standardized and experimental measures of numeracy and memory skills. Also, in grade 3, parents of these students were given a questionnaire addressing their attitudes towards mathematics, and home support (e.g., tutoring, help with homework) which they provide to their children in mathematics. In addition, immigrant parents received a questionnaire addressing their children's language home environment. It was found that ESL children did not differ significantly from native English speakers on any of the measures. A significantly larger proportion of ESL than native English speaking parents indicated that they tutor their children in mathematics at home. A significantly larger proportion of English speaking children were enrolled in extra-curricular activities, such as sports. There does not appear to be any significant difference in performance between the two language groups, suggesting that an ESL/immigrant background is not a strong determinant of success in early mathematics education. However, the greater investment of tutoring time by immigrant parents in their children's mathematical education may be one of the reasons why ESL children performed as well as native English speaking children.

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