Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 59–70 | Cite as

Relationships between mathematics achievement and various English language proficiencies

  • Raymond A. Zepp


The article suggests that correlational studies between English language proficiency and success in mathematics have not been specific. English is composed of many proficiencies which are not always closely related. The article examines correlations between mathematics success and various English language skills, including vocabulary, reading comprehension, reading speed, listening, structure, and expression. Tests of these skills were given to incoming science students at the National University of Lesotho in both 1978 and 1979, and the results were compared with the students' success in first-year mathematics. In all cases, correlations were low. But correlations in 1978 were higher than in 1979. Attempts are made to explain these differences. The possibility is explored that speakers of different languages may learn mathematics (in English) in various ways. Finally, implications for the teaching of Use of English courses are discussed.


Mathematics Teacher Language Skill Mathematics Achievement Reading Speed English Language Proficiency 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Buckingham Guy E.: Feb. 1937, ‘The relationship between vocabulary and ability in first year algebra’, Mathematics Teacher 30, 76–79.Google Scholar
  2. Buckingham Guy E.: Mar. 1937, ‘The relationship between silent reading ability and first year algebra ability’, Mathematics Teacher 30, 130–132.Google Scholar
  3. Call R. J. and Wiggin N. A.: 1966, ‘Reading and mathematics’, Mathematics Teacher 59, 149–157.Google Scholar
  4. Clark Mildred: 1939, ‘The effect of remedial work in reading comprehension upon algebraic achievement’, Mathematics Teacher 32, 65–67.Google Scholar
  5. Curry, J. F.: 1955, ‘The effect of reading instruction upon achievement in seventh-grade arithmetic’, Dissertation Abstracts 15, number 2059.Google Scholar
  6. Drake Richard M.: 1940, ‘The effect of teaching the vocabulary of algebra’, Educational Research 33, 601–610.Google Scholar
  7. Eagle Edwin: 1948, ‘The relationship of certain reading abilities to success in mathematics’, Mathematics Teacher 41, 175–179.Google Scholar
  8. Finck Edgar M.: 1935, ‘Relation of ability in reading to success in other subjects’, Elementary School Journal 36, 260–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forseth W. J.: 1961, ‘Does the study of geometry help improve reading ability?’ Mathematics Teacher 54, 12–13.Google Scholar
  10. Gay John and Cole M.: 1967, The New Mathematics and an Old Culture, Rinehart, New York.Google Scholar
  11. Henderson T. and Sharma R.: 1974, Psychological Service Report I: Numeracy at the Grade Three Level, Ministry of Education, Lusaka.Google Scholar
  12. Heron, Alastair, 1970, ‘The relative importance of reasoning ability and of English vocabulary and comprehension in first year university achievement by Zambian students’, in T.'P. Gorman (ed.), Language in Education in Eastern Africa, Oxford, Nairobi.Google Scholar
  13. Hinkelman E. A.: 1956, ‘Relationship of reading ability to elementary school achievement’, Educational Administration and Supervision 42, 65–67.Google Scholar
  14. Johnson Harry C.: 1944, ‘The effect of instruction in mathematical vocabulary upon problem solving in arithmetic’, Journal of Educational Research 38, 97–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jones, John: 1974, The Prediction of Academic Success in the First Year at the University of Malawi, MA Thesis, University of Malawi.Google Scholar
  16. London Schools Council: 1967, Standards in C.S.E. and G.C.E., Working paper 9, H.M.S.O., London.Google Scholar
  17. Macnamara John: 1967, ‘The effects of instruction in a weaker language’, Journal of Social Issues 23, 121–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Marks, John: 1980, ‘1979 COSC Results Analysis’, National University of Lesotho Faculty of Science paper FOSP 80/16.Google Scholar
  19. Morris, R. W.: 1974, ‘Linguistic problems encountered by contemporary curriculum development projects in mathematics’, UNESCO document ED-74/CONF.808/10.Google Scholar
  20. Murphy, William, C.: 1963, ‘A study of the relationships between listening ability and high school grades in four major academic areas’, Dissertation Abstracts 23, No. 3693.Google Scholar
  21. Pitts Raymond J.: 1952, ‘Relationship between functional competence in mathematics and reading grade levels, mental ability, and age’, Journal of Educational Psychology 43, 486–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Posamentier Alfred: 1966, ‘The effect of reading ability on performance on the Orleans Geometry Prognosis Test’, Graduate Research in Education and Related Disciplines 2, 184.Google Scholar
  23. Root, Paul: 1964, ‘Speed reading: its relation to high school achievements’, Dissertation Abstracts 25, No. 1791.Google Scholar
  24. Russell David H.: 1941, ‘An experimental comparison of algebraic reading practice and the solving of additional verbal problems in tenth grade algebra’, Mathematics Teacher 34, 347–352.Google Scholar
  25. Troxel Vernon: 1962, ‘The effects of purpose on the reading of expository mathematical materials in grade eight’, Journal of Educational Research 55, 221–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. UNESCO: 1974, Interactions Between Linguistics and Mathematical Education, UNESCO document ED-74/CONF.808, Nairobi.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raymond A. Zepp
    • 1
  1. 1.National University of LesothoUK

Personalised recommendations