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The impact of linguistic complexity on the solution of mathematical modelling tasks

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Abstract

Comprehending a mathematical modelling task is a central prerequisite for the following modelling process. In this study, we investigated the roles that the language proficiency of the students and the linguistic wording of the task play for the comprehension and the successful solving of mathematical modelling tasks. Five mathematical tasks with a constant modelling complexity and a varied linguistic complexity were developed. 634 students of comprehensive schools were tested and their socio-demographic factors as well as their language proficiency were measured. The results show a strong relationship between language proficiency and mathematical modelling achievement. Moreover, the findings suggest that increasing the linguistic complexity of mathematical modelling tasks results in lower solution frequencies.

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Notes

  1. The working group (http://www.fach-und-sprache.de) consists of researchers from areas with different teaching methodologies (mathematic, physics, German, music, and sport), empirical educational research, and linguistics.

  2. The frequency of German words can be measured using the corpus of the University of Leipzig (http://www.wortschatz.uni-leipzig.de). The relative frequency class of a word is indicated in comparison to the most frequent word, the. The higher the frequency class the rarer use of the word in the corpus.

  3. The LIX value can be calculated for free (https://www.psychometrica.de/lix.html).

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Plath, J., Leiss, D. The impact of linguistic complexity on the solution of mathematical modelling tasks. ZDM Mathematics Education 50, 159–171 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11858-017-0897-x

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