Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Max O. Gerling


This paper explores the relationship between language and mathematics. It is a summary of research done over the last thirty years. Also included are personal observations which are not part of any controlled study. Since language is the vehicle for thought, mathematics educators and curriculum planners will benefit from a linguistic approach to mathematics education. Symbolic mathematics is similar to natural language in both its structure and its communicative nature. If the students are to internalize the notation, they must be the ones to give it meaning. A linguistic approach to mathematics education includes language development, verbalization of concepts, vocabulary development, and written work. The child learns language through a sequence of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. This sequence is inherent in problem solving. The true purpose of mathematics education is to equip the student with the ability to understand a problem, formulate a plan to solve it, carry out that plan, and be able to tell if the answer they get is reasonable. An approach to mathematics instruction that addresses the language of mathematics will help provide the student with this ability.