Solving arithmetic problems in first and second language: does the language context matter?

Amandine Van Rinsveld*, Christine Schiltz, Martin Brunner, Karin Landerl, Sonja Ugen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Learning mathematics in a second language is a challenge for many learners. The purpose of the study was to provide new insights into the role of the language context in mathematic learning and more particularly arithmetic problem solving. We investigated this question in a German–French bilingual educational setting in Luxembourg. Participants with increasing bilingual proficiency levels were invited to solve additions in both their first and second instruction languages: German and French. Arithmetic problems were presented in two different conditions: preceded by a semantic judgment or without additional language context. In the French session we observed that additions were systematically performed faster in the condition with an additional language context. In contrast no effect of the context was observed in the German session. In conclusion, providing a language context enhanced arithmetic performances in bilinguals' second instruction language. This finding entails implications for designing optimal mathematic learning environments in multilingual educational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-82
Number of pages11
JournalLearning and Instruction
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • arithmetic
  • bilingualism
  • context
  • language
  • mathematics


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