Limited English Proficiency Students and Misconceptions in Mathematics: A Case Study

Norlia T Goolamally, Jamil Ahmad


ABSTRACT: When Mathematics is taught in English, students not only have to learn English but they must also learn English words used in Mathematical context. This can lead to misconception again due to the lack of understanding of English. So, Mathematics can be particularly challenging for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students. However, despite these challenges, the Malaysian government’s policy to teach Mathematics and Science in English started eight years ago in 2002 with the intent to provide the citizens of the country with the scientific and technological competence to face the globalize world. Thus, this study aimed to identify the approaches and strategies teachers integrate in their lessons to overcome the challenges faced by LEP students. This qualitative case study was conducted in a rural primary school in Pahang which has an enrolment of 1,800 students. The school’s excellent achievement in the UPSR Mathematics grade has been ranked among the top five schools in the state of Pahang. Other findings through classroom observations, interviews with teachers and students and document analyses proved that teacher’s strength, enthusiasm, and proficiency in English and creativity in their teaching strategies enable them to teach LEP students, the subject most feared that is Mathematics, in the English language. In addition to that, teachers teaching techniques encourage students to build confidence in learning Mathematics and become less anxious to this fearful subject.

KEY WORDS: Bilingual learners, homework assignment, limited English proficiency students, Mathematics, and misconception.

About the Authors: Norlia T. Goolamally is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Technology OUM (Open University of Malaysia), Jalan Tun Ismail, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Jamil Ahmad, Ph.D. is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Education UKM (National University of Malaysia), Bangi, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia. They can be reached at: and

How to cite this article? Goolamally, Norlia T. & Jamil Ahmad. (2010). “Limited English Proficiency Students and Misconceptions in Mathematics: A Case Study” in EDUCARE: International Journal for Educational Studies, Vol.3(1) August, pp.69-84. Bandung, Indonesia: Minda Masagi Press owned by ASPENSI in Bandung, West Java; and FKIP UMP in Purwokerto, Central Java, ISSN 1979-7877.

Chronicle of the article: Accepted (June 12, 2010); Revised (July 17, 2010); and Published (August 17, 2010).

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