Questionnaires data analysis
The Making Mathematics Teachers Mobile project focuses on furthering mathematics teachers’ mobility by enhancing their confidence in their foreign language competence and thereby reducing their reluctance to be mobile. It takes into account the shortage of mathematics teachers in western countries, differences in the education systems, “universality” of school mathematics curricula and standards, and the required language and communicative competences necessary for reading and discussing mathematics in a foreign language.
Preliminary analysis of the project had shown that in the partner countries, mathematics student teachers are very rarely educated to use a foreign language as the medium of instruction in mathematics.
To help the project partners to input materials to develop the project, a questionnaire for both mathematics and language teacher trainers and a questionnaire for mathematics and language teachers were prepared and introduced in spring 2007. The number of respondents was 58 teacher trainers and 279 teachers. The (sometimes significantly) different numbers of respondents in the partner countries is not too important for the project purposes. A larger part of the respondents constituted mathematics teacher trainers and teachers.
The qualitative part of the analysis of the answers confirmed both language and mathematics teacher trainers and teachers had considerable interest and concern in starting and/or increasing cooperation.
Moreover, the answers revealed several different types of motivation and diverse experiences. Educational advantages and perspectives were presented, thus motivating the project partners to further investigate some of the issues raised.
General remarks from the analysis:
- The language mainly mentioned is English.
- Almost all of the (both maths and language) teachers think that it is possible to teach mathematics in a foreign language.
- A few mathematics teachers say it is possible also because of its “universality”, the specificity and reduced vocabulary of its language, and the support of the symbolic language.
- Many mathematics teachers mention the profits from the second language for their professional future, but sometimes they fear misunderstandings and poor communication in the classroom if the teacher and the pupils do not share the same mother tongue. Several teachers even fear to add (the language) difficulty to (the subject) difficulty…
- Reluctance or opposition to teach mathematics abroad using a non-mother tongue seems to be more visible in older mathematics teachers, whereas the younger teachers’ approach is more open and flexible.
- Co-operation between mathematics and language teachers is very rare and punctual (translation of a word…).
- Several teachers are interested in the development of intercultural competence, taking also into account the increasing number of immigrant pupils. This applies particularly to language teachers.
- The great majority of both language and mathematics teachers think that both teachers and pupils can profit from mathematics being taught in a foreign language.
- Nevertheless, some of them think it would be helpful for mathematical or language learning, only for pupils who are motivated and with a good academic standard.