Math: the Universal Language?

Hello research partners, educators, caregivers, and friends of Multi-STEM, thanks for stopping by my corner, the subproject ‘home’. In the last few months, I’ve spoken with IOT, CPS Onderwijs, Stichting Joury, It’s My Child, and Taal Doet Meer. In these conversations, I’ve been so excited by the openness of our research partners and the willingness to learn together.

The aim of the ‘home’ project is to explore how caregivers can be empowered through the use of translanguaging strategies. I will also investigate whether pre-teaching in the home, with regard to various mathematical concepts, can be realized. How can parents and caregivers play a role in previewing certain mathematical concepts in the home language as an introduction to what is learned in class?

Using the home language and translanguaging strategies in this way is something that—to our knowledge—has not yet been developed. The hope is that giving the students access to their wholistic linguistic repertoires in this way would contribute to migrant children’s feelings of inclusion in school and their academic achievement.

After much reading and conversations with our partners, I’ve decided to focus on both newcomers and children with a 2nd and 3rd generation migration background. I will be looking at the primary school group 3 & 4, as well as 6 & 7. It is thoroughly important that we learn more about what works for each age group, which is why we’ve chosen to look at a broader range of students for the initial stages of the project.

My first study will employ the use of semi-structured interviews and a survey. Both seek to gain information about the various beliefs that caregivers of multilingual children have regarding the Dutch language, the home language, and translanguaging. I will also try to learn more about the wants and needs of caregivers regarding the use of translanguaging in the home. This will help us to develop strategies that truly work for caregivers and families.

Pending ethical approval, I will begin the interviews in April/May and the survey will be available in the fall. I’ll definitely be looking to the partners for help in making connections with caregivers and families. If all goes to plan, the survey will be available in seven languages, and we will employ the use of translators for the interviews if necessary. I’m really looking forward to working with each of you more in the coming year.

– Erin MacDonald | e.g.macdonald@uu.nl

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