Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

Second Language Acquisition: Methods, Perspectives and Challenges


Successful solution of mathematics word problems (MWPs) requires students to be able to understand the language of the MWP, which may be particularly challenging for English Learners (ELs). In this chapter, we review 21 empirical studies about specific linguistic features of MWPs, and the effects of modifying linguistic features on mathematics word problem-solving performance. Results of our review indicated that a variety of linguistic features has differential effects on the mathematics word problem-solving performance of ELs (compared to non-ELs), and that the effects vary by linguistic feature and grade level. Additionally, the effects of modifying the linguistic features of items were mixed, with some studies indicating positive effects, some indicating negative effects, and others indicating mixed effects across different groups of students. We include recommendations for future research, particularly the need to test the effects of modifying specific linguistic features while holding other features constant. We conclude with implications for practice, both for test developers, who have direct control over the language of MWPs, and for teachers, who can use this information to scaffold their mathematics instruction.