Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education

2020 Edition
| Editors: Stephen Lerman

Language Background in Mathematics Education

  • Richard BarwellEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15789-0_86


What does language background have to do with mathematics education? The term language background can be used to refer to the particular set of national, social, and domain-specific language varieties in which any individual or group of people has experience and expertise. In this entry, language background refers more particularly to the different languages that learners and teachers use. One of the challenges of contemporary globalized societies is that language diversity is itself increasingly diverse, and this matters in mathematics classrooms (Barwell 2016). The teaching and learning of mathematics depend fundamentally on language. Mathematics classrooms may feature discussion among students, lectures by the teacher, printed curriculum materials or textbooks, and writing on a blackboard or on a screen. If mathematics education is reliant on language, however, a question arises:
  • Do students’ or teachers’ language backgrounds have any impact on their learning or...


Language background Language diversity Bilingual learners Second language learners Bilingual mathematics classrooms Multilingual mathematics classrooms 
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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eva Jablonka
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Education and PsychologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany