ERG SES D 11, Mathematics and Education
Mathematics in early childhood is a topic that has been received remarkable increase in attention recently. Both increasing number of children attending to early education programs because of the prevalence of early childhood education and raising awareness of the importance of mathematics have an essentialrole in this remarkable increase (Sarama & Clements, 2009).
Early childhood is a period where a child shows fastest development and develops basic concepts (Erdoğan & Baran, 2003). NCTM (2000) defines basic mathematical concepts that need to be learned in early childhood as number concept, geometry, measurement, data collection and doing by modelling. Charlesworth and Lind (2007) also mentioned that matching, comparisons, addition, grouping and number concepts are essential mathematical skills that needed to be gained. These mathematical concepts play an important role in terms of their ability to be easily integrated into early childhood education without disturbing the flow of education.
The research indicates that giving mathematics a place in the early childhood’s classrooms is beneficial for children’s later success in learning mathematics (e.g. Denton & West, 2002; Henniger, 1987; Unutkan, 2007; Eurostat, 2014).Research done by Denton and West (2002) states a strong influence of early mathematical knowledge on later success in mathematics. Unutkan (2007) also emphasizes that gaining basic skills about mathematics in early childhood provides a basis for mathematical concepts in primary schools. In addition, mathematics education in early childhood provides children to improve their problem-solving skills and facilitates children’s later academic life (Henniger, 1987).
Although the importance of mathematics education in early years has been stated, deficiencies in guiding preschool teachers about how mathematics get involved during early childhood still occurred (Clements, Coople & Hyson, 2010). Several studies focused on specific guiding in early mathematics demonstrate that providing such a guidance has a positive impact on helping children meet the goal on the children’s pace and way of thinking in mathematically. (Clements, Fuson & Sarah, 2017) However, such studies and implementations have been generally limited. As in many European countries, there is not a specific mathematics curriculum for early childhood education in Turkey. Rather than specific mathematics curricula, general mathematical skills and objectives identified in the curriculum and lesson plans in comparison to other competencies aimed to gain. As a result, mathematics education in early childhood is shaped by teachers’ initiatives. Therefore, preschool teachers play an important role in improving children’s understanding of mathematical concepts (Griffin, 2004). Children in early childhood generally learn about basic mathematical concepts from experiences and teachers have an influence in presenting these experiences to students (Erdoğan & Baran, 2003). However, the initiatives taken by teachers are affected and shaped by what they think about mathematics education in early childhood. In this point, preschool teachers’ perceptions and practices about mathematics play an essential role in mathematics education in early childhood. Therefore, it is important to investigate preschool teachers’ perceptions of mathematical education in early childhood as a component of mathematical learning in early childhood.This study is significant because it helps to understand how what the factors are shaping teachers’ perceptions and implications of mathematics education in early childhood and how the factors are related to students, teachers and early childhood education program. Also, this study may inform preschool teachers, educators and policy makers about developing specific mathematics curriculum and preparing professional development programs considering preschool teachers’ perceptions of and current implications of mathematics. In the light of the literature and the purpose of the study, the research questions of the study are that “How do preschool teachers perceive mathematical education in early childhood?” and “In what degree and how do they integrate mathematics in their classrooms?”.
This is a qualitative multi-case study in which preschool teachers’ points of view about mathematics education and their current implications are explored. The cases of the study are five preschool teachers who are working at “Yuva” that serves early childhood education for personnels’ children at a public university in Turkey. Yuva is an institution where in addition to the national curriculum, institution adopted “High Scope” program that is research based and child focused program and it gives importance to “active participatory learning” (Kotaman, 2009). Furthermore, ages of children in Yuva range from 2 to 6. Each teacher has approximately 8 children in his classrooms. The participants were selected through purposeful sampling. I selected preschool teachers working with children ages from 3 to 6 because children at these ages shows a rapid improvement intellectually (Bulman & Savory, 2006). Therefore, teachers working with the age groups are worth studying to explore the ideas about mathematics in early childhood and their practices.Data was collected by a semi-structured interview and several photos from classrooms. Furthermore, I observed the classrooms in terms of physical conditions, design of classrooms and materials in the classroom. Each interview was audio-taped and transcribed. Interviews took approximately 25 to 45 minutes for each participant. To get different perspectives of teachers, open ended questions were prepared. Example interview questions are: • Which skills are more important to teach in early years especially for your student group? • If you are wanted to rank these skills, where do you put mathematics in this order? • How do you give mathematics a place in your class? For the interview questions, expert opinion was received. In addition to the main questions; there were certain follow up questions that appeared during the interviews. Open coding was used for analyzing data. Each teacher touches upon different points to focus for my analysis. Those points formed a basis for my categories which are teachers’ reasons of giving mathematical topics a place in their classrooms, which mathematical topics are preferred to teach and how these are presented to children. Teachers’ reasons of giving mathematical topics a place in their classrooms were classified as student related factors, teacher related factors and other factors like curriculum and their presenting style of mathematics were categorized as presenting mathematics within real life situations, within games and within group or individual work. Further information about coding also will be presented in the conference.
The purpose of the study was to explore preschool teachers’ perceptions and implications related to mathematics education in early childhood. The results show that preschool teachers perceive mathematics as an important component in early childhood education. The preschool teachers stated that mathematics should be taught in early childhood and they perceived it as a part of daily life. However, Participant 4 has different view from other participants and perceived mathematics as a difficult/abstract subject because of her experiences in school life. She expressed that mathematics does not need to be given in early childhood because children will learn it in primary school so other developmental skills should be focused. However, she stated that she is teaching mathematical topics when students demand during their daily experiences. Therefore, which topics she teaches mostly are shaped by students’ interests and demands in her classroom. However, other teachers stated that they try to integrate mathematics in their lessons purposefully because they believed that integrating mathematics will contribute to students’ in terms of academic gains and improving life skills. These show teacher’s views about mathematics education in early childhood shapes their practices regarding to their self-reports. Furthermore, several participants also pointed about the necessity of the specific mathematics curriculum. They thought such a program would change their practices positively; providing them professional guidance what and how they should do. For example, participant 2 stated that “There are some key practices in High Scope. We choose these key practices for example in mathematics area. Then we decide which concepts we need to focus on”. This statement indicates the importance of the presence of a curriculum to shape teachers’ perceptions and practices. Preschool teachers were aware of some deficiencies related to their area and they were disposed to overcome these deficiencies. Further results will be shared.
Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (2007). Qualitative Research for Education: An Introduction to Theory and Methods. United States of America: Pearson Education. Bulman, K., & Savory, L. (2006). BTEC First Children's Care, Learning and Development Student Book. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Charlesworth, R., & Lind, K. K. (2012). Math and Science for Young Children 7th Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing. Clements, D. H., Copple, C., & Hyson, M. (2010). Early childhood mathematics: Promoting good beginnings. A joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). Clements, D. H., Fuson, K. C., & Sarama, J. (2017). The research-based balance in early childhood mathematics: A response to Common Core criticisms. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 40, 150-162. Denton, K., & West, J. (2002). Children's reading and mathematics achievement in kindergarten and first grade. Retrieved May 4, 2015, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED461438.pdf Erdoğan, S. Ç., & Baran, G. (2003). Erken çocukluk döneminde matematik. Education and Science, 28(139), 32-40. Erickson, F. (1986). Qualitative Methods in Teching. F. Erickson içinde, Handbook of Research on Teaching (s. 119-160). NewYork: Macmillan. European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice/Eurostat, 2014. Key Data on Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe. 2014 Edition. Eurydice and Eurostat Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Griffin, S. (2004). Building number sense with Number Worlds:. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 173-180. Henniger, M. (1987). Learning mathematics and science through play. Child Education, 63(3), 167-171. Kotaman, H. (2009). Okul öncesi eğitimde High Scope modeli. Pamukkale Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi, 26(26), 31-41. NCTM (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Sarama, J., & Clements, D. H. (2009). Early childhood mathematics education research: Learning trajectories for young children. Routledge. Unutkan, Ö. P. (2007). Okul Öncesi Dönem Çocuklarinin Matematik Becerileri Açisindan İlköğretime Hazir Bulunuşluğunun İncelenmesİ. Hacettepe Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi, 243-254.
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