Early years

Luxembourg's new iPad tool helps multilingual children learn maths

Véronique Cornu shows an example of an exercise via the tool
Véronique Cornu shows an example of an exercise via the tool
Photo: University of Luxembourg

A language-free method of teaching maths to multilingual children to put early learners on an equal footing regardless of their home language has been tested in Luxembourg schools.

The programme for iPad, created by two Luxembourg University PhD students, visually interacts with young children, eliminating the added difficulties learning maths through a non-native language may pose.

A study carried out in 2011 showed young children learning basic maths in a non-native language performed worse than those who were taught in their mothertongue.

The iPad tool, which is now in its final stages, was tested in five 'cycle one' classrooms (five to six-year-olds) at two schools, in Grevenmacher and Steinsel.

PhD student and trained psychologist and researcher in developmental psychology, Véronique Cornu, came up with the idea of developing the tool which overcomes language barriers in early maths.

It teaches children through videos, without words or spoken language, using images to explain tasks and give instructions and providing visual-only feedback.

"Instruction in early education such as kindergarten is very verbal," Cornu explained. "Children who attend a kindergarten in a language which is not their first language sometimes miss the instruction and this makes learning basic maths more difficult for them.

"By creating a non-verbal tool, all children can profit from the same instruction from the start."

Different languages have different numerical structures and given that many mathematical questions are constructed in sentences, working out an equation demands more than just understanding maths.

The way a child grasps basic maths paves the way for his or her ability in the subject in later education.

The 10-week study in five classrooms in Luxembourg showed children who took part made greater improvement than children who did not use the tool for the same tasks.

Cornu, who developed the tool with PhD student, Tahirih Pazouki, now hopes it will be used in schools and available to parents.

They have set up a collaboration with the Unviersity of Lille with the possibility of extending the programme to schools in France from September and are in discussions with a university in Germany and in Iran.

(Heledd Pritchard, heledd.pritchard@wort.lu, +352 49 93 459)

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