Age-related differences in language use within the mathematical register

Rod E Case, Pete Cobin, Gwedolyn Williams


The struggles that learners face as they attempt to produce mathematical explanations have been widely documented from researchers working in the systemic functional linguistics tradition. The approach has been to isolate specific grammatical patterns which differ across the natural and mathematical register and then argue that these represent a source of trouble for learners. This manuscript explores the extent to which age accounts for differences in the production of explanations within the mathematical register, but does so from a cognitive linguistic tradition.

Data was collected over three weeks from 50 students, 30 boys and 20 girls in five different classrooms. A Chi-Square test of independence demonstrated age-related differences in the use of six different grammatical patterns within the mathematical register. The larger argument is made that producing explanations within the mathematical register relies more on the strategic use of multiple grammatical patterns and semantic forms than the mastery of a single grammatical pattern.


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