The relationship between mathematics and language: Academic implications for children with specific language impairment and English language learners

Mary Alt, Genesis D. Arizmendi, Carole R. Beal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: The present study examined the relationship between mathematics and language to better understand the nature of the deficit and the academic implications associated with specific language impairment (SLI) and academic implications for English language learners (ELLs). Method: School-age children (N = 61; 20 SLI, 20 ELL, 21 native monolingual English [NE]) were assessed using a norm-referenced mathematics instrument and 3 experimental computer-based mathematics games that varied in language demands. Group means were compared with analyses of variance. Results: The ELL group was less accurate than the NE group only when tasks were language heavy. In contrast, the group with SLI was less accurate than the groups with NE and ELLs on language-heavy tasks and some language-light tasks. Specifically, the group with SLI was less accurate on tasks that involved comparing numerical symbols and using visual working memory for patterns. However, there were no group differences between children with SLI and peers without SLIon language-light mathematics tasks that involved visual working memory for numerical symbols. Conclusion: Mathematical difficulties of children who are ELLs appear to be related to the language demands of mathematics tasks. In contrast, children with SLI appear to have difficulty with mathematics tasks because of linguistic as well as nonlinguistic processing constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)220-233
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Volume45
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

Mathematics
English language
Language
mathematics
language
Group
English Language Learners
Academic Language
Specific Language Impairment
symbol
Short-Term Memory
language group
Light
deficit
Linguistics

Keywords

  • Children
  • Education
  • English language learners
  • Language
  • Mathematics
  • Specific language impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Language and Linguistics

Cite this

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abstract = "Purpose: The present study examined the relationship between mathematics and language to better understand the nature of the deficit and the academic implications associated with specific language impairment (SLI) and academic implications for English language learners (ELLs). Method: School-age children (N = 61; 20 SLI, 20 ELL, 21 native monolingual English [NE]) were assessed using a norm-referenced mathematics instrument and 3 experimental computer-based mathematics games that varied in language demands. Group means were compared with analyses of variance. Results: The ELL group was less accurate than the NE group only when tasks were language heavy. In contrast, the group with SLI was less accurate than the groups with NE and ELLs on language-heavy tasks and some language-light tasks. Specifically, the group with SLI was less accurate on tasks that involved comparing numerical symbols and using visual working memory for patterns. However, there were no group differences between children with SLI and peers without SLIon language-light mathematics tasks that involved visual working memory for numerical symbols. Conclusion: Mathematical difficulties of children who are ELLs appear to be related to the language demands of mathematics tasks. In contrast, children with SLI appear to have difficulty with mathematics tasks because of linguistic as well as nonlinguistic processing constraints.",
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