The effects of CLIL on mathematical content learning: A longitudinal study

Main Article Content

Jill Surmont
Esli Struys
Maurits Van Den Noort
Piet Van De Craen


Previous research has shown that content and language integrated learning (CLIL), an educational approach that offers content courses through more than one educational language, increases metalinguistic awareness. This improved insight into language structures is supposed to extend beyond the linguistic domain. In the present study, the question whether pupils who learn in a CLIL environment outperform their traditionally schooled peers in mathematics is investigated. In total, 107 pupils entered the study. All participants were in the first year of secondary education at a school in Ostend, in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Thirty-five pupils followed CLIL education in a foreign language (French) and 72 followed traditional education that was given in the native language (Dutch). All participants were tested using a mathematical test at the beginning of the year, after three months, and after ten months. The first measurement of the mathematical scores showed that the two groups did not differ. In accordance with our hypothesis, the CLIL group scored higher than the non-CLIL group after ten months. Surprisingly, an effect was also found after three months. To conclude, CLIL appears to have a positive impact on the mathematical performance of pupils even after a short period of time.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Surmont, J., Struys, E., Van Den Noort, M., & Van De Craen, P. (2016). The effects of CLIL on mathematical content learning: A longitudinal study. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 6(2), 319-337.
Author Biographies

Jill Surmont, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Jill Surmont is Postdoc at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. She investi-gates the learning process and how it can be influenced by languages usage. In an IWT-project called Validiv run by the University of Ghent, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Jill supports schools in Brussels to validate the linguistic diversity in classrooms.

Esli Struys, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Esli Struys is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. His research interests are second language learning, cognitive control, education, and neurolinguistics.

Maurits Van Den Noort, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Maurits Van Den Noort is Regular Professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, Republic of Korea, where his Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience conducts mainly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research on healthy participants and psychiatric patients. In addition, he works as a Visiting Professor at the Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. His research interests are foreign language learning, multilingualism, working memory, education, neurolinguistics, and neuroimaging.

Piet Van De Craen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel


Piet Van De Craen is Full Professor of Linguistics at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. His research interests are second language learning, neurolinguistics, education, and content and language integrated learning.


  1. Abdi, H. (2010). The Greenhouse Geisser Correction. In N. Salkind (Ed.), Encyclopedia of research design. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  2. Adanur, Y., Yagiz, O., & Işik, A. (2004). Mathematics and language. Journal of the Korea Society of Mathematical Education Series D: Research in Mathematical Education, 8(1), 31-37.
  3. Arianrhod, R. (2005). Einstein’s heroes: Imagining the world through the language of mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Banegas, D. L. (2012). Integrating content and language in English language teaching in secondary education: Models, benefits, and challenges. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 2(1), 111-136.
  5. Berko, J. (1958). The child’s learning of English morphology. Word, 14, 150-177.
  6. Bialystok, E. (2001). Metalinguistic aspects of bilingual processing. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 169-181.
  7. Bialystok, E., & Barac, R. (2012). Emerging bilingualism: Dissociating advantages for metalinguistic awareness and executive control. Cognition, 122(1), 67-73.
  8. Bialystok, E., Peets, K. F., & Moreno, S. (2014). Producing bilinguals through immersion education: Development of metalinguistic awareness. Applied Psycholinguistics, 35(1), 177-191.
  9. Bonnet, A. (2012). Towards an evidence base for CLIL: How to integrate qualitative and quantitative as well as process, product and participant perspectives in CLIL research. International CLIL Research Journal, 1(4), 66-78.
  10. Bredenbröker, W. (2002). Förderung der fremdsprachlichen Kompetenz durch bilingualen Sachfachunterricht: Empirische Untersuchungen [Improvement of foreign-language competency through bilingual instruction: Empirical studies]. In S. Breidbach, G. Bach, & D. Wolff (Eds.), Mehrsprachigkeit in Schule und Unterricht: Bilingualer Sachfachunterricht. Didaktik, Lehrer-/Lernerforschung und Bildungspolitik zwischen Theorie und Empirie (pp. 141-150). New York: Peter Lang.
  11. Cenoz, J., Genesee, F., & Gorter, D. (2013). Critical analysis of CLIL: Taking stock and looking forward. Applied Linguistics, 35(3), 243-262.
  12. Clarkson, P. C. (1992). Language and mathematics: A comparison of bilingual and monolingual students of mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 23(4), 417-429.
  13. Clarkson, P. C. (2007). Australian Vietnamese students learning mathematics: High ability bilinguals and their use of their languages. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 64(2), 191-215.
  14. Coyle, D. (2006). Content and language integrated learning: Motivating learners and teachers. Scottish Languages Review, 13, 1-18.
  15. Cummins, J. (2005). Using information technology to create a zone of proximal development for academic language learning: A critical perspective on trends and possibilities. In C. Davison (Ed.), Information technology and innovation in language education (pp. 105-126). Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong Press.
  16. Dawe, L. (1983). Bilingualism and mathematical reasoning in English as a second language. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 14(4), 325-353.
  17. Edwards, H. T., & Kirkpatrick, A. G. (1999). Metalinguistic awareness in children: A developmental progression. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 28(4), 313-329.
  18. Ellis, R. (2008). The study of second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  19. European Commission. (2013). PISA 2012: EU performance and first inferences regarding education and training policies in Europe. Brussels: European Commission.
  20. Francis, N. (2004). Nonlinear processing as a comprehension strategy: A proposed typology for the study of bilingual children’s self-correction of oral reading miscues. Language Awareness, 13(1), 17-33.
  21. Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.
  22. Fromkin, V. A. (1980). Errors in linguistic performance: Slip of the tongue, ear, pen and hand. New York: Academic Press.
  23. Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
  24. Goldhaber, A. (2006). Math as a language in its own right. American Scientist, 94(2), 1.
  25. González, J. Á., & Barbero, J. (2013). Building bridges between different levels of education: Methodological proposals for CLIL at university. Language Value, 5(1), 1-23.
  26. Goswami, U. (2008). Cognitive development: The learning brain. New York, NY: Psychology Press.
  27. Hermanto, N., Moreno, S., & Bialystok, E. (2012). Linguistic and metalinguistic outcomes of intense immersion education: How bilingual? International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(2), 131-145.
  28. Horgan, D. (1981). Learning to tell jokes: A case study of metalinguistic abilities. Journal of Child Language, 8(1), 217-224.
  29. IBM Corp. (2013). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows (Version 22.0). Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.
  30. Jäkel, N. (2015). Use and impact of language learning strategies on language proficiency: Investigating the impact of individual difference variables and participation in CLIL streams (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Bochum, Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
  31. Jäppinen, A. K. (2005). Thinking and content learning of mathematics and science as cognitional development in content and language integrated learning (CLIL): Teaching through a foreign language in Finland. Language and Education, 19(2), 148-169.
  32. Jessner, U. (2006). Linguistic awareness in multilinguals: English as a third language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  33. Kemper, R., & Vernooy, A. (1993). Metalinguistic awareness in first graders: A qualitative perspective. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 22(1), 41-57.
  34. Lorenzo, F., Casal, S., & Moore, P. (2010). The effects of content and language integrated learning in European education: Key findings from the Andalusian Bilingual Sections Evaluation Project. Applied Linguistics, 31(3), 418-442.
  35. Marsh, D. (1994). Bilingual education & content and language integrated learning. Paris: International Association for Cross-Cultural Communication, Language Teaching in the Member States of the European Union (Lingua), University of Sorbonne.
  36. Marsh, D. (2012). Content and language integrated learning: A development trajectory. Córdoba: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Córdoba.
  37. Mehisto, P., & Morsh, D. (2011). Approaching the economic, cognitive and health benefits of bilingualism: Fuel for CLIL. In Y. Ruiz de Zarobe, J. Manuel Sierra, & Gallardo del Puerto (Eds.), Content and foreign language integrated learning: Contributions to multilingualism in European contexts (pp. 21-48). Bern: Peter Lang.
  38. Mondt, K., Struys, E., Balériaux, D., & Van de Craen, P. (2008). Neurocognitive effects of multilingualism and school language on numerical cognition in a population of children. NeuroImage, 41(Suppl. 1).
  39. Murray, D. R. (2010). Irish-medium language immersion programs’ effect on mathematics education. Journal of Mathematics Education at Teachers College, 1, 28-32.
  40. Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1995). Metalinguistic awareness and literacy acquisition in different languages (Tech. Rep. No. 618). College of Education, Univeristy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.
  41. Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1998). Metalinguistic awareness and the acquisition of literacy in different languages. In D. Wagner, R. Venezky, & B. Street (Eds.), Literacy: An international handbook (pp. 155-160). Boulder, CO: Westview.
  42. Nikula, T., Dalton-Puffer, C., & García, A. L. (2013). CLIL classroom discourse: Research from Europe. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 1(1), 70-100.
  43. OECD. (2007). Understanding the brain: The birth of a learning science. Paris: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
  44. Orr, E. W. (1987). Twice as less: Black English and the performance of black students in mathematics and science. New York: Norton & Company.
  45. Pérez-Cañado, M. L. (2012). CLIL research in Europe: Past, present, and future. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(3), 315-341.
  46. Ransdell, S., Barbier, M., & Niit, T. (2006). Metacognitions about language skill and working memory among monolingual and bilingual college students: When does multilingualism matter? The International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 9(6), 728-741.
  47. Rumlich, D. (2013). Students’ general English proficiency prior to CLIL: Empirical evidence for substantial differences between prospective CLIL and non-CLIL students in Germany. In S. Breidbach & B. Viebrock (Eds.), Mehrsprachigkeit in Schule und Unterricht: Content and language integrated learning (CLIL) in Europe. Research perspectives on policy and practice (pp. 181-201). Frankfurt am Main: Lang.
  48. Sun, R., Mathews, R., & Lane, S. (2007). Implicit and explicit processes in the development of cognitive skills: A theoretical interpretation with some practical implications for science education. In E. Vargios (Ed.), Educational psychology research focus (pp. 1-26). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science.
  49. Surmont, J., Van de Craen, P., Struys, E., & Somers, T. (2014). Evaluating a CLIL student: Where to find the CLIL advantage. In R. Breeze, C. Llamas Saiz, C. Martinez Paramar, & C. Tabernero Sala (Eds.), Integration of theory and practice in CLIL (pp. 55-74). Amsterdam: Rodopi.
  50. Ter Kuile, H., Veldhuis, M., Van Veen, S. C., & Wicherts, J. M. (2011). Bilingual education, metalinguistic awareness and the understanding of an unknown language. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 14(2), 233-242.
  51. Thompson, D. R., & Rubenstein, R. N. (2000). Learning mathematics vocabulary: Potential pitfalls and instructional strategies. Mathematics Teacher, 93(7), 568-574.
  52. Usiskin, Z. (1996). Mathematics as a language. In P. C. Elliott & M. J. Kenney (Eds.), Communication in mathematics, K-12 and beyond (pp. 231-243). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
  53. Valladoloid, L. (1991). The effect of bilingual education on student’s academic achievement as they progress through a bilingual program (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). United States International University, Nairobi, Kenya.
  54. Van de Craen, P., Ceuleers, E., & Mondt, K. (2007). Cognitive development and bilingualism in primary schools: Teaching maths in a CLIL environment. In D. Marsh & D. Wolff (Eds.), Diverse contexts – converging goals: CLIL in Europe (pp. 185-200). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
  55. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  56. Whitehurst, G. J., & Lonigan, C. J. (1998). Child development and emergent literacy. Child Development, 69(3), 848-872.
  57. World Medical Organization. (1996). Declaration of Helsinki. British Medical Journal, 313(7070), 1448-1449.