n Pythagoras - Mother tongue policies and mathematical terminology in the teaching of mathematics

Volume 2008, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-2346
  • E-ISSN: 2223-7895


Many countries in Africa have mother tongue policies which require learners to be taught in their mother tongue for at least some of the years of primary education. This paper discusses the implementation of such policies in relation to mathematical terminology in the teaching and learning of mathematics. I present and discuss two strategies of dealing with mathematical terminology when teaching in the mother tongue: the strategy of developing mathematics registers in the local languages and the strategy of borrowing from mathematical English. I discuss the cases of Nigeria and Tanzania as examples of the former and the case of Malawi as an example of the latter. The discussion illustrates the strengths of each strategy as well as potential problems. I conclude with a discussion of implications for Malawi specifically and for any African country in general.

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