Mathematical literacy examination items and student errors: An analysis of English Second Language students’ responses

Pamela Vale, Sarah Murray, Bruce Brown


Mathematical literacy is a real-world practical attribute yet students write a high-stakes examination in order to pass the subject Mathematical Literacy in the National Certificates (Vocational) (NC(V)). In these examinations, all sources of information are contextualised in language. It can be effortful for English second language students to decode text. The deliberate processing that is required saturates working memory and prevents these students from optimally engaging in problem solving. In this study, 15 items from an NC(V) Level 4 Mathematical Literacy examination are selected, as well as 15 student responses to each of these questions. From these responses, those which are incorrect are analysed to determine whether the error is due to insufficient mathematical literacy or a lack of English language proficiency. These results are used as an indication as to whether the examination is fair and valid for this group of students.

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ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

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