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Developing Academic Literacy

Edited By George M. Blue

Academic literacy has always been a key underlying theme in English for academic purposes and practitioners and researchers in the field have always had one eye on its development in students. In recent years it has moved into the foreground and become a central field of study in its own right and the focus of a considerable amount of programme development and research. This was reflected in the fact that a conference focusing on Developing Academic Literacy was held by BALEAP (British Association of Lecturers in English for Academic Purposes) in Southampton in the spring of 2003. This volume consists of papers selected from the themes of that conference. The papers reflect areas of interest in issues in academic literacy, criticality and evaluative language, academic literacy in the disciplines and the use of technology in developing academic literacy.

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Part 3 Academic Literacy in the Disciplines 125

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Part 3 Academic Literacy in the Disciplines Bill Barton and Pip Neville-Barton Literacy and Mathematics Learning Educational institutions in developed countries are increasingly accepting students whose language background is not the same as the language of instruction. There is, thus, growing interest in language requirements for tertiary study, and in programmes that will assist students. Our investiga- tion into the mathematics learning of under graduate students for whom English is an additional language (EAL students) was prompted by a review of the English language requirements for tertiary institutions in New Zea- land. The focus is mathematics because this is a subject often undertaken by students with low English language abilities who are under the impres- sion that they will not be so disadvantaged linguistically. Therefore the motivation for the study is to investigate the level of English language proficiency required to successfully undertake under- graduate mathematics study at a university. Are EAL students performing less well in undergraduate mathematics than students who have English as a first language (L1)? Is there a minimum English proficiency thresh- old below which the student will be significantly disadvantaged? Also, if there is a language-based disadvantage for EAL students, is this related to general literacy, or is it related to literacy in mathematical discourse in particular? In this initial study, first year mathematics students were asked to answer mathematics questions using five different modes of presentation. L1 and EAL students taken separately, and EAL students with different English proficiency levels, were compared. 128 Bill...

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