Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Mediating Wor(l)ds: Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in English in Malaysia

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posted on 2021-11-11, 21:32 authored by Antonysamy, Assunta Carolina

This study investigates the implementation of ETeMS (English for the Teaching of Mathematics and Science) policy in Malaysia. Teachers, who learnt mathematics and were trained to teach mathematics in Bahasa Melayu, have had to teach mathematics in English since the implementation of ETeMS. This study observes two teachers and their teaching of mathematics in English to ten-year-old students. The study draws on sociocultural and sociolinguistic theories of classroom research which strongly advocate that education is a process of interaction. Both theories place importance on the joint construction of meaning through classroom interaction. The research mainly seeks to understand how teaching and learning is mediated in classrooms through the new medium of instruction. Adapting Erickson’s (1982) proposed constructs: academic and social participation structures, the study investigates the academic world and social world of linguistically altered mathematics classrooms. Sinclair and Coulthard’s (1975) discourse analysis tool has been adapted to study the teaching and learning of mathematics in English. Principles from conversation analysis and critical discourse analysis have been drawn upon to study the social world of linguistically altered classroom. Analysis of the classroom interaction showed that the academic world of linguistically altered classrooms is still heavily reliant on triadic dialogue. Despite that, teacher talk, through various discursive practices, was found to be an important mediating tool for mathematical content and mathematical English. Mathematical content and mathematical English were also shown to be jointly constructed through the use of several other mediating tools. The study revealed that there is more of an emphasis on teaching for testing than teaching for understanding, hence more attention to procedural fluency than to conceptual understanding, thus more emphasis on calculation discourse than on conceptual discourse. However, once the content and concept has been jointly constructed, students take some ownership of the classroom interaction. As well as the academic world, the study investigates how the new language of instruction mediates the social world of the classroom. The study found that the new medium (re)creates the social world of the classroom as teachers and students position and (re)position themselves and each other, and (re)establish their identities and sense of agency through the new language. From the insights gleaned from this study, the inter-relationship between ETeMS policy on paper and ETeMS policy in practice is explored. Some important implications for policy, practice and inter-disciplinarity in mathematics education and applied linguistics are discussed. The thesis concludes by proposing an adapted and extended model of mathematics education and directions for future research.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Educational Linguistics

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education Policy and Implementation


Higgins, Joanna; Vine, Elaine