A study of the emergence of cultural mathematical understandings and communications in young children's spontaneous pretend play.
Researcher(s): Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B.
Setting(s): Redcliffe Nursery School and Children’s Centre
Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B. (2016) Pretend play and the cultural foundations of mathematics. European Early Childhood Research Association Journal. Online, 1-16.
The aim of this study is to uncover the emergence of cultural mathematical understandings and communications in young children’s spontaneous pretend play. It is based on Vygotskian cultural-historical perspectives and social-semiotic theory, informed by research into ‘funds of knowledge’ and considers how children’s informal knowledge of family practices enriches their play and cultural mathematical understandings. Longitudinal, ethnographic data were gathered in an inner-city mainstream nursery in the south-west of England. Data include written observation and graphics of seven children aged three to four years of age engaged in social pretend play. The findings reveal that many play episodes included aspects of mathematics and that these increased through the year: they show how the children’s home cultural knowledge underpinned their pretend play and informed their mathematics. Where children are immersed in mathematical- and graphical-rich environments, bridging home and early childhood cultures becomes a natural feature of their pretend play.