Role of language in teaching and learning of mathematical word problems

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Institute for Educational Development, Karachi


Word problems form an integral part of the mathematics curricula. Children often face difficulties in solving word problems especially in the context where English is used as second language such as Pakistan. In such a context, it is generally argued that the medium of instruction and linguistic limitations constrain teachers' classroom practices. Therefore, the relationship between mathematics and the language of teaching and learning is considered to be complicated; at times students grapple with the language and are unable to comprehend word problems. This study aims to explore the views and understanding of a grade eight mathematics teacher on the role of language in teaching and learning word problems in a private school in Karachi. To gain insights and initiate change, this study employed the action research model (Kemmis, MCTaggart & Rettalic, 2004) comprising two cycles. The findings of the study reveal that the teacher employed a transformational approach and seemed constrained to use problem-solving strategies. Nevertheless, the study showed that students' learning was hampered because of the way teaching was structured and carried out. Findings also revealed that students' understanding of word problems can be promoted by reconceptualising the teaching processes from product to process, by involving students in mathematical discourse and allowing learners to code switch. However, some issues explored in the study are completion of syllabus, usage of Urdu and exam-oriented teaching and learning. Based on findings it is suggested to revisit teaching and learning processes and equip teachers with different strategic approaches to facilitate students in understanding word problems. Moreover, it is recommended that change be gradually initiated in classrooms. The study, which examined a teacher's teaching strategies and its influence on students' learning, can contribute towards teacher education programmes through redesigning training, assisting teachers and teacher educators to recognise and address the interference of language in understanding word problems.

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