Original Research

Test items and translation: capturing early conceptual development in mathematics reliably?

Graham Dampier, Daphney Mawila
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 2, No 2 | a11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v2i2.11 | © 2012 Graham Dampier, Daphney Mawila | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 2014 | Published: 30 December 2012

About the author(s)

Graham Dampier, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Daphney Mawila, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Translating items of educational tests from one language to another is problematic. Arriving at accurate translations of concepts formulated in a language that is grammatically and syntactically incommensurable with a target language is a concern that probably won’t find resolution. And the very act of translation can obscure the accuracy of test items. Item Response Theory holds that only the ability of people tested and the difficulty of items should have an effect on the dataset. We report on an instance where a test was translated from German to English and then into isiZulu and Sesotho. We tested 106 pupils from similar socio economic backgrounds and schools. Our aim is to determine whether the translation had any effect on the accuracy of the instrument, which has been normed and standardised in Germany with a sample of 0ver 1000 grade 1 pupils.


Item response theory, conceptual development, mathematical competence, learning and assessment.


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