Codeswitching in mathematics lessons in Zimbabwe
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This paper reports the preliminary results of an on-going study of codeswitching during the teaching of. Mathematics in several types of primary schools in Zimbabwe. Briefly, codeswitching refers to tire use of two or more languages during a single utterance or sequence of utterances between two or more speakers. Codeswitching is a choice available only to those who have the ability to use the languages in question. The general purpose of codeswitching is to facilitate communication and understanding between speakers (Eastman, 1992). This research aims to throw light on the purposes of codeswitching in primary classrooms as well as its likely effects on learning. Although this paper is limited to observation and description, in due course we intend to show how systematic, careful use of the learners’ first language serves a dual purpose: (1) it may promote understanding of the mathematical concepts being taught, and, (2) it may help to develop academic skills in the first language as well as in the second (Hewlett, 1995). We hope that the findings of this enquiry will also help teachers to fine-tune language-in-schooling practices to match children’s varied needs in rural, urban, farm, high density, and low density schools, thereby maximising children’s access to mathematical and other knowledge.