HomeLEAPS: Miriam College Faculty Research Journalvol. 22 no. 1 (2003)

High School Students’ Understanding of English Mathematics Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences

Milagros D. Ibe

Discipline: Mathematics, Education, Languages



Comprehension of word problems in high school algebra was hypothesized as the main factor in students’ ability in solving word problem. Mathematics comprehension was assessed in a 2-stage process: first: translation to Filipino of English phrases and clauses commonly found in mathematics story problems in textbooks, and second: translation of the descriptive and relational phrases and clauses to mathematics symbols. The students were also made to solve six story problems algebraically.

The ability to translate relational phrases and clauses did not correlate as highly as the ability to transcribe the same to mathematics symbols with problem solving ability.

Failure to distinguish between “less than” and “is less than” was noted in the translations. The phrases on which the students had the most difficulty are “at least” and “at most.” A common source of error in the students’ translations to mathematics symbols is a left-to-right word-for-word processing rather than getting the meaning of the whole phrase or clause.

The findings of the study imply a need for teachers to take time to teach translations to mathematics symbols before teaching the topics on equations and inequalities.