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European Commission - Comenius

European Commission - Education and Culture

Project Details

MAking MAThEmatics TEAchers MObile

129543-CP-1-2006-1 -IT-COMENIUS-C21


Project span

Project Coordinator

CAFRE Centro di Ateneo di Formazione e Ricerca Educativa
Università di Pisa

Contact person


Project Partners

(AT) Universität Wien

(CZ) Univerzita Karlova v Praze

(DK) University College Lillebælt, Skårup Seminarium

(FR) Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres de l'Académie de Créteil

Teaching Maths in a Foreign Language
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Italian comparison of language teachers’ and mathematics teachers’ views on teaching mathematics in a foreign language

The questionnaire analysis concerned 24 teacher trainers (17 in mathematics) and 141 teachers (109 in mathematics).

In this comparison, we comment upon the answers provided by teachers.

Predictably enough , most teachers speak English (and sometimes only that) and, anyway, mathematics teachers are not able to evaluate their own competence in the foreign language they know.

The large majority of the subject teachers never taught maths using a foreign language.

Collaboration between language teachers and mathematics teachers is widely viewed as rare and occasional.

Only very few mathematics teachers and half language teachers claim to know about teaching models based on the use of a foreign language.

For different reasons, most teachers acknowledge the importance and usefulness of knowing a foreign language, mostly English. In particular, they point out, together with language teachers, that it is advantageous to have a higher international mobility and better communication and analytical skills in intercultural contexts. It is also often underlined that mathematics, due to its universal nature, to its ways of organizing discourse and the specific nature of its language, including the symbolic one, may be taught in a foreign language better than other subjects. Some mathematics teachers also underline the fact that the possibility of using the Internet as well as training and teaching materials from other countries, create better opportunities for professional development.

Among the difficulties, communication between teachers and pupils is mostly remarked by both groups of teachers. For some teachers, this difficulty might even increase the well-known learning difficulties pupils experience in the subject: weirdly enough (but maybe not too much), this risk is more frequently pointed out by language teachers than mathematics teachers ….

A large majority of language teachers believes that teaching mathematics in a foreign language may be useful for pupils because they would get the chance to use the language in a specific context, drawing on a special language.

Contrasting opinions about the necessary requisites to teach mathematics in a foreign language have been expressed by both groups of teachers. In particular language teachers point out a mathematics teacher’s need for flexibility and open-mindedness, whereas mathematics teachers are really worried about their capacity of communicating mathematics in a foreign language, obviously, but also about organizing the mathematical discourse in a way that takes into account the classroom context: in particular they point out the need to use a lower linguistic register than the one they generally se when they teach in their mother tongue.


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