, Volume 81, Issue 1, pp 103-125,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 12 Feb 2012

The meaning of mathematics instruction in multilingual classrooms: analyzing the importance of responsibility for learning


In the multilingual mathematics classroom, the assignment for teachers to scaffold students by means of instruction and guidance in order to facilitate language progress and learning for all is often emphasized. In Sweden, where mathematics education is characterized by a low level of teacher responsibility for students’ performance, this responsibility is in part passed on to students. However, research investigating the complexity of relations between mathematics teaching and learning in multilingual classrooms, as well as effect studies of mathematics teaching, often take the existence of teachers’ responsibility for offering specific content activities for granted. This study investigates the relations between different aspects of responsibility in mathematics teaching and students’ performance in the multilingual mathematics classroom. The relationship between different group compositions and how the responsibility is expressed is also investigated. Multilevel structural equation models using TIMSS 2003 data identified a substantial positive influence on mathematics achievement of teachers taking responsibility for students’ learning processes by organizing and offering a learning environment where the teacher actively and openly supports the students in their mathematics learning, and where the students also are active and learn mathematics themselves. A correlation was also revealed between group composition, in terms of students’ social and linguistic background, and how mathematics teaching was performed. This relationship indicates pedagogical segregation in Swedish mathematics education by teachers taking less responsibility for students’ learning processes in classes with a high proportion of students born abroad or a high proportion of students with low socio-economic status.