ERG SES B 03, Parallel Session B 03
Throughout everyday experiences in a variety of contexts, young children display natural curiosity of mathematics concepts. Yet evidence suggests that the opportunity for children to build on this curiosity and to elicit understandings of mathematics, particularly in prior-to-school settings, is only poorly embraced by early childhood teachers. Given that mathematics has traditionally been associated as a subject harbouring negative beliefs and attitudes, it is unsurprising that the research suggests teachers need to develop their expertise in first identifying, then facilitating, the mathematical activity from experiences children engage in.
In order for early childhood teachers to have the skill to identify potential mathematics teaching and learning opportunities, they must first possess various types of knowledge. This is an important issue in need of further attention because research suggests that limited knowledge may impede teachers’ visions of the teaching and learning opportunities of tasks. According to Shulman, teachers require at least three types of knowledge: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge. It is through this knowledge that appropriate, meaningful practice can be initiated. It is not contested that teacher knowledge is a vital factor in delivering effective pedagogy and enhancing student learning outcomes. There is considerable research on the many types of teacher knowledge that are integral to all teachers’ ability to educate, however such literature relevant to mathematics education in early childhood is especially minimal. This can be attributed to factors such as educational expectations in the early years, the traditional philosophies centred around child development, and the constructivist perspective of learning through play-based approaches. More research is needed to determine how knowledge is utilised in order to build upon young children’s emerging mathematical understandings.
Integrated within constructivist principles is the notion of young children learning mathematics through concrete materials, manipulating them through play. The body of research surrounding this topic continues to grow. Although, it appears that the definition of concrete materials often encompasses concrete materials as being designed only as mathematics-specific teaching resources. This view may be interpreted as deficient because concrete materials do not necessarily have to be designed with a mathematics educational goal in mind. Subject specific materials are not prerequisites to maximising student learning. Success in learning occurs through daily activities and interactions. Hence, the researcher has developed the term ‘tangible resources’ to also include a wide range of non-mathematics specific resource materials, with which it is possible to teach children basic mathematics concepts.
There appears to be little available research with a particular focus on the relationship between teacher knowledge and tangible resources. To address this gap, this PhD is a qualitative case study which will examine the types of knowledge participants use to assist them in identifying the mathematics pedagogical potential of tangible resources. This study aims to refine and expand on models related to teacher knowledge, use of tangible resources, and positive teaching and learning opportunities of mathematics education in early childhood.
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