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When words can be misleading: the role of vocabulary in learning mathematics

from No. 2023 | 1 zum Thema «Sprachbewusster Fachunterricht»

Silvia Demartini, Silvia Sbaragli

This paper deals with mathematical terminology in the context of mathematics pedagogy, adopting an interdisciplinary perspective connected with the Italian language. To understand the characteristics of the language of mathematics and the difficulties it presents, it is essential to follow a synergetic approach because this makes it possible to clarify phenomena, reasoning, and critical points. In the first sections of the article we outline the features of mathematical language before focusing on lexis. More specifically, we concentrate on "misleading" words, polysemous items that evoke a variety of meanings, and not only mathematical ones, in students’ minds. If not explicitly addressed, these can affect how students construct mathematical concepts. We use empirical data to reflect on these concepts and to outline possible ways for a common pedagogical approach.

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