Title: Harnessing a SFL Understanding of Text to Develop Literacy Skills for Undergraduate Mathematics Students
It is too often expected that students naturally adjust to the register of their academic and professional calling as they progress through university degrees and enter the workforce. But sometimes sufficient skills are not acquired and students who choose mathematics or related majors only too often perceive natural language use as antithetical to and irrelevant in the communication of mathematics. Such attitudes can inhibit growth into professional registers.
Concerns about these issues have prompted development of a new subject in first year Mathematics at the University of Technology, Sydney. This subject is designed to assist students who are overwhelmed by the leap from the language used in school mathematics to the more complex discourse of professional mathematics. In the course students read formal and informal journal articles, study conventions in writing mathematics and develop oral and written presentations on mathematical topics.
Preparation of the course drew on developments in teaching English for specific purposes, both in developing skills in communicating in academic settings and from the point of view of target text analysis. This paper examines the contribution made by Systemic Functional Linguistics to the project. It discusses issues in bringing important functional aspects of clause grammar to the attention of readers who have no experience of formal language study.. It describes features of what members of the mathematics faculty regard as "good" and "bad" mathematical writing. It asserts the centrality of procedural genres in mathematical writing and the troubled relationship they have with other, backgrounded but important, genres.