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Commissioned by the NSW Institute of Teachers,


A recent Australian review of numeracy teaching noted the significant role of language in mathematics learning. The National Numeracy Review Report (2008), commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), synthesised evidence on effective numeracy teaching to support the goal of improving numeracy outcomes for Australian students. The report of the review acknowledged the significance of language in mathematics learning, and recommended: That the language and literacies of mathematics be explicitly taught by all teachers of mathematics in recognition that language can provide a formidable barrier to both the understanding of mathematics concepts and to providing students access to assessment items aimed at eliciting mathematical understandings. Research evidence about the role of language in numeracy learning was included in this report in the discussion of ways of supporting students’ numeracy learning, although it was noted that there was a limited amount of research into language factors in mathematics education. Several issues relating to language and literacy were identified: the specialised symbols and expressions of mathematical language; the use of everyday English terms that have different meanings in mathematics classrooms; language-based factors in solving mathematical word problems; communication in the mathematics classroom. This digest draws on recent research on these four issues.

Place of Publication

Camberwell, Victoria


Australian Council for Educational Research

Document Type