Tahereh Pazouki can concisely explain the virtue of learning math visually.
“If I tell you a square is four lines that are the same length and are connected at 90-degree angles, you will need a lot of verbal understanding at a high level of language to understand what it is,” Tahereh says. “But if I show you a picture of a square, then you simply get it: There’s no need to overcomplicate it.”
In basic terms, that’s the idea behind Magrid, a pedagogical math-learning program in Luxembourg that has helped close the learning gap between native-speaking students and those learning math in a different language.
“In Luxembourg, over 60% of the population of students who start schooling are second-language learners,” Tahereh says. “They are not familiar with the language of instruction, which is Luxembourgish.
The problem goes beyond poor scores. “This can have a very high impact on their confidence,” she says. “They can think, ‘Maybe I’m not good enough,’ or they may lose interest in learning. When I’m talking about math, I’m also talking about general problem-solving and logical thinking.”
While pursuing her doctorate in computer science and psychology at the University of Luxembourg in 2014, Tahereh wanted to find a solution to this problem.
“We began looking into different possibilities, one of which was a language-free learning program, which is now called Magrid,” she says. “We removed all verbal instruction and replaced it with visual materials, and we tested it in about 20 schools around Luxembourg.”