DCU research creates glossary for Irish sign language

Amy Murphy

Dr Elizabeth Mathews, DCU, with Minister John Halligan, TD. Image Credit: Jason Clarke

DCU Research is creating an Irish sign language glossary for maths education.

A new project, led by DCU Researcher Elizabeth Mathews, is creating a glossary in Irish Sign Language (ISL) to help develop a common resource of mathematic terms.

“I know that teachers, when delivering maths lessons, will occasionally come across a term that they just don’t have a sign for. So, I knew that this was a problem, and decided to apply for funding to develop a glossary that will help teachers,” said Mathews.

The project, which started in January, is being funded by the Science Foundation of Ireland’s Discover programme and will be one year long.

“We’re at the stage where we’ve gone through all the primary and secondary school curricula and we’ve extracted all the maths vocab. But we have way more words than we’re going to be able to include, the glossary will have about 200 words,” said Mathews. “We’re going through it all to try whittle that down and eliminate words. We’re trying to maximise how beneficial this particular glossary will be.”

Mathews, who specialises in deaf education and has worked in the area for over 15 years, said that they’ve decided to start with a maths glossary, as maths is the foundation for many of the other science subjects.

“The scope of the funding we’ve applied for is very restrictive, so we decided to go with a very specific subject and a very specific number of terms. We would hope, when we learn how to do this through the process of the next 12 months, that we will be better equipped to then extend our glossary.”

Mathews says the team have taken inspiration from other projects that have been done internationally which have developed into a vast area of subjects.

“The project that I have looked most closely at is one in Scotland. They started with 80 maths terms in 2005, and they now have thousands of terms. They’ve got physics, astrophysics, geography, geology, so this is just a starting point.”

The glossary will be open access and available online by early 2019.

Amy Murphy