Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, Karachi; Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


This is an in-depth qualitative study of students learning mathematics in classrooms where the medium of instruction was English which was the second or third language of the learners i.e. they were multilingual classrooms. Moreover, to promote reasoning and learning with understanding, the teachers had introduced group work, mathematical discussion, and mathematics tasks employing everyday contexts and language. Focus of the paper is the complex relationship between the language of instruction and the process of learning mathematics. The study demonstrates that learning mathematics in multilingual classrooms brings added complexity because students moved back and forth from the language of instruction to their own language. This movement involved a demonstrated need on part of the learners to understand the language structures, grammar and vocabulary of the language of instruction, and it involved translation which is a nuanced and complex process. This in turn led to further issues for mathematics learning because students may or may not translate appropriately. Additionally, the discourse of mathematics classrooms which promote mathematical discussion and reasoning, and where the mathematics texts are encoded in the “everyday use phrases” in the language of instruction, required students to understand the mathematics intent embedded in the “every day use phrases” and at the same time understand the language of instruction. The current wave of Education reform in Pakistan has led to a review of the national curriculum, a new scheme of studies and new policies in language of instruction in mathematics. This paper raises significant issues for policy and practice of mathematics teaching in the current reform and policy renewal context in Pakistan.


Bulletin of Education & Research