Appropriate activities promote children's creativity and mathematical learning

December 20, 2011

On 1 July this year, the Swedish national pre-school curriculum for mathematical development was revised. Many teachers are now struggling with the question of how to live up to the new, higher expectations. A doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, sheds light on mathematics in the everyday life at Swedish pre-schools. Appropriate material and activities can enable more teachers to develop their skills and encourage children's creative mathematical play.

In her thesis, Maria Reis studies mathematizing among 1-3 year olds. This area has been largely neglected among researchers since it has been perceived that toddlers do not have the language skills needed for meaningful research. Contrary to mathematics, which signals a certain subject content, the word mathematize refers to learning by doing.

Strategic and goal oriented

'What I mean is that the arranging and ordering that the kids do with the material at hand is a way of mathematizing,' says Maria Reis, who separates the children's ordering into several different categories. Her study is based on 223 episodes from 47 hours of filmed play and activities initiated by the children. The material shows how the children build towers using rings and cups. The youngest ones are strategic, goal oriented and knowledge driven.

Illuminates math

The national pre-school curriculum was revised on 1 July 2011 with respect to the goals of for example children's mathematical development. The overall consensus is that the curriculum was made significantly stricter.There has been a general sense of unwillingness among pre-school teachers to talk in terms of mathematics. Using the concept of mathematizing, my thesis widens the scope of activities that can be included. I point out certain parts of math that are present in everyday life, along with their learning outcomes. Hopefully I will help teachers develop their knowledge and work,' says Reis, who is also a teacher trainer at Borås University.
The thesis has been successfully defended.

University of Gothenburg

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