Date of Award

5-15-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Degree Program

Curriculum & Instruction

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Germain-McCarthy, Yvelyne

Second Advisor

Speaker, Richard B.

Third Advisor

Thoreson, Claire A.

Fourth Advisor

Al-Ashhab, Samer

Abstract

This study aims at answering questions pertaining to the performance of bilingual Arab-American students on solving word problems written in their home and school languages: (1) Does the language in which a word problem is stated have an effect on the performance of the bilingual Arab-American students?; (2) Do Arab-American students with higher levels of Arabic proficiency perform better in either or both versions of the word problems?; and (3) What are some common differences and similarities in the problem solving processes of Arab-American students as they solve problems in English or Arabic? The study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze these questions. A total of 173 students from a full-time Islamic school participated in this study: 56 students in fifth grade, 56 students in sixth grade, and 61 students in seventh grade. All students were asked to solve two sets of ten word problems each. The students were randomly assigned to one of four groups. Results showed that Arab-American students performed significantly better in the English version of the word problems. Arab-American students with higher levels of Arabic proficiency performed better in the Arabic version of the word problems. Students' standardized scores on mathematics problem solving was a significant factor in explaining variances in student performance on both language versions of both sets of word problems. While students' standardized scores on reading comprehension was a significant factor in predicting the students' performance on the English version of the word problems, students' final average in the Arabic subject was a significant factor in predicting students' performance on the Arabic version of the word problems. Differences and similarities emerged in the problem solving processes of Arab-American students solving the word problems in either English or Arabic. Some students found statements involving double comparisons, problems with hidden information, and problems that required multi-step solutions or thinking backwards to be problematic in both language versions of the problems. Difficult vocabulary was especially problematic for students when solving the Arabic version of the word problems.

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The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.

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