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The Ability to Discern the First Ten Numbers as a Necessary Ground for Arithmetic Skills

The project is grounded in an assumption about the way in which arithmetic skills are developed. We posit that the first ten numbers must be discerned based on their manyness and part-whole aspects, and not just be counted. This assumption is tested and studied in pedagogical contexts by working with the creation of fundamental arithmetic skills in 5–6 year olds together with preschool teachers. The projects aims to generate knowledge about children’s early arithmetic learning from theoretical and methodological perspectives that are partly different from those that have dominated the field, and to assess whether and in which way planned pedagogical activities that are based on theoretical assumptions can contribute to children’s development of arithmetic skills in the short and long run.

The specific research questions are:
1. To what extent is the ability to discern manyness and part-part-whole structure in the first ten natural numbers a prerequisite for the development of arithmetic skills?
2. How can the ability be developed by means of a pedagogical model that is based on specific empirical and theoretical insights?
3. Does development of the skills help the children master arithmetic tasks over a longer term?

In order to answer the research questions, the project utilises a combination of field experiments and design experiments, where the intention is to develop both theory and practice and in particular test previous research results and theoretical assumptions through application.

We implement theory and pedagogical artefacts in preschool practice in close collaboration between researchers and preschool teachers. The study will involve a number of preschool teachers in several municipalities as well as about 100 children ages 5–6 years. The analysis and development will be based on the teachers’ pedagogical work. This will also constitute data for analysing and understanding what might explain the outcome of math work in preschool.

The children’s mathematical development is followed through interviews on three occasions: twice during the ‘study year’ in preschool and one time in ‘grade 0’ (age 6). The material gathered through the interviews form a basis for both qualitative and quantitative analyses.

The study will provide both practical and theoretical knowledge about children’s development of number concepts and basic arithmetic. Since practically all children in Sweden attend preschool and the national preschool curriculum prescribes development of children’s mathematical development, we see it as important to explore in what way children at these ages can be provided support so that a larger share of them develop effective strategies and learn to see numerical relationships. The results will inform how to develop the practice in preschool and the lower grades in a way that stimulates children’s mathematical development, not least against the background that teaching activities must be based on science and proven experience.


Project participants and Funder

Project participants
Camilla Björklund, project director, University of Gothenburg

Ference Marton, University of Gothenburg
Angelika Kullberg, University of Gothenburg
Maria Reis, University of Gothenburg
Maria Alkhede, University of Gothenburg
Ulla Runesson, Jönköping University
Anna-Lena Ekdahl, Jönköping University

Swedish Research Council
Project period: 2015–2018

Page Manager: Webbredaktionen|Last update: 3/28/2017

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