Mathematical teaching in Nursery Schools in England; A way forward for mathematical pretend play and democratic pedagogies



Only a few studies have focused on mathematics and pretend play, and they have mostly concentrated on the children and their play and not the supporting pedagogy. To move the debate forward, I present research focusing on the pedagogy of mathematical pretend play, within a socio-cultural perspective, centring on two nursery school teachers, from English Nursery Schools. It revealed the unconventional teaching these teachers engaged in to enhance children’s mathematical thinking in play. This may offer us a way into understanding pretend play pedagogies and the conditions that might support children’s own mathematical thinking, especially in early years classrooms.


Pretend play, pedagogy, mathematics, English Nursery Schools, early years

Full Text:



Anantharajan, M. (2020). Teacher noticing of mathematical thinking in young children’s representations of counting. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 51(3), 268-300.

Atkins, L., & Wallace, E. (2012). Qualitative Research in Education. London: Sage.

Bodrova, E., & Leong D. J.(2015). Vygotskian and post-Vygotskian views on children’s play American Journal of Play, 7(3), 371-388.

Broadhead, P. (2010). Cooperative play and learning from nursery to year one. In P. Broadhead, J. Howard & E. Wood (Eds.), Play and learning in the early years (pp. 43-59). London: SAGE Publications.

Broström, S. (2017). A dynamic learning concept in early years’ education: A possible way to prevent schoolification. International Journal of Early Years Education, 25(1), 3-15.

Bruner, J. (1996). Actual minds possible worlds. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruce, T. (1991) Time to play in Early Childhood Education. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Carpenter, T. P., Franke, M. L., Johnson, N. C., Turrou, A. C., & Wager, A. A. (2017). Young children’s mathematics: Cognitively guided instruction in Early Childhood Education. New York: Heinemann.

Carruthers, E. (2015). Listening to children’s mathematics in school. In R. Perry, A. MacDonald & A. Gervasconi (Eds.), Mathematics and transition to school: International perspectives (pp. 313-330). Sydney, Australia: Springer.

Carruthers, E., & Worthington, M. (2006). Children’s mathematics: Making marks, making meaning. London, England: Sage.

Carruthers, E., & Worthington, M. (2011). Understanding children’s mathematical graphics: Beginnings in play. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press/McGraw Hill Education.

Chieus, G. J. (2004). Ethnomathematics: Reflections on teaching practice. In J. P. M. Ribeiro, M. C. S. Domite & R. Ferreira (Eds.), Ethnomathematics: Role, value, and meaning (pp. 185-202). São Paulo, SP, Brazil: ZOUK.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of qualitative research. London: Sage.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1975). Beyond boredom and anxiety. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Office for Standards in Education (2015). Teaching and play in the early years a balancing act? Retrieved from

Day, C. (2007) A passion for teaching. Public lecture, General Teaching Council for Norther Ireland, University of Nottingham, England.

Department for Education (2017). Early Years Foundation Stage Statutory Framework. London: H.M.S.O.

Dhalberg, G., Moss, P., & Pence A. (2006). Beyond quality in Early Childhood Education and Care. Abingdon: Routledge.

Elfer, P., Goldschmied, E., & Selleck, D. (2012). Key persons in the early years. Abingdon: David Fulton.

Ernest, P. (2016). Mathematics and values. In B. Larvor (Ed.), Mathematical Cultures (pp.189-214). Switzerland: Springer.

Fisher, J. (2016). Interacting or interfering. Improving interaction in the early years. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Fleer, M. (2010). Early learning and development: Cultural-historical concepts in play. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Gifford, S. (2005). Teaching Mathematics 3-5. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Gilbert, N. (2004). Researching Social Life. London: Sage.

Ginsburg, H. P. (2006). Mathematical play and playful Mathematics: A guide for early education. In D. G. Singer, R. M. Golinkoff & K. Hirsh-Pasek (Eds.), Play=learning: How play motivates and enhances children's cognitive and social-emotional growth (pp. 145-165). New York: Oxford University Press.

Goldin, G. A., & Kaput, J. J. (1996). A joint perspective on the idea of representation in the learning and doing of mathematics. In L. P. Steff, P. Nesher, P. Cobb, G. A.

Goldin & B. Greer (Eds.), Theories of mathematical learning (pp. 397-430). Mahawah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gonzalez, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. New Jersey, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Hall, N., & Roberts, A. (2003). Exploring writing and play in the early years. London: David Fulton.

Hedegaard, M., & Fleer, M. (2013). Play, learning, and children's development: Everyday life in families and transition to school. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Holzman, L. (1997). Schools for growth: Radical alternatives to current educational models. London, UK: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Jordan, B. (2010). Co-constructing knowledge: Children teachers and families engaging in a science rich curriculum. In L. Brooker & S. Edwards (Eds.) Engaging play (pp. 96-107). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Kress, G. (1997). Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. London, UK: Routledge.

Munn, P., & Schaffer, R. (1993). Literacy and numeracy events in social interactive contexts. International Journal of Early Years Education, 1(3), 61-80.

Pascal, C., & Bertram, T. (2012). Praxis, ethics and power: Developing praxeology as a participatory paradigm for early childhood research. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20(4), 477-492.

Pahl, K. (1999). Transformations: Meaning making in the Nursery. Stroke-on-Trent: Trentham Books.

Paley, V. G. (2004). A Child’s work: The importance of fantasy play. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.

Papandreou, M., & Tsiouli, M. (2020). Noticing and understanding children’s everyday mathematics during play in early childhood classrooms. International Journal of Early Years Education. Retrieved from

Pound, L. (2006). Supporting mathematical development in the early years. Maidenhead: Open University.

Pramling, N., Wallerstedt, C., Lagerlof, P., Bjorkland, C., Kultti, A., Palmer, H., Magnusson, M., Thulin, S., Jonsson, A., & Pramling Samuelsson, I. (2019). Play-responsive teaching in Early Childhood Education. Switzerland: Springer.

Rogers, S. (2010). Powerful pedagogies and playful resistance: Role play in Early Childhood Education. In L. Brooker & S. Edwards (Eds.), Engaging play (pp. 152-165). Maidenhead: Open University.

Rogers, S. (2011). Play and pedagogy, a conflict of interests? In R. Rogers (Ed.), Rethinking Play and Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education (pp. 5-18). Abingdon: Routledge.

Rogers, S., & Evans, J. (2008). Inside role play in Early Childhood Education: Researching children’s perspectives. London, UK: Routledge.

Scrimsher, S., & Tudge, J. (2003). The teaching/learning relationship in the first years of school: Some revolutionary implications of Vygotskya's theory. Early Education and Development, 14(3), 293-312.

Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Sylva, K. (2004). Researching pedagogy in English pre-schools. British Educational Research Journal, 30(5), 713-730.

Tolchinsky, L. (2003). The cradle of culture and what children know about writing and numbers before being taught. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Van der Veer, R., & Valsiner, J. (1991). Understanding Vygotsky. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Van Oers, B. (1996). Are you sure? Stimulating mathematical thinking during young children’s play. European Early Childhood Research Journal, 4, 71-87.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher mental processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, E. (2004). Communities of practice: Learning meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Whitebread, D. (1999). Interactions between children’s metacognitive processes, working memory, choice of strategies and performance during problem-solving. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 14(4), 489-507.

Wood, E. (2010). Developing integrated pedagogical approaches to learning to play and learning. In P. Broadhead & J. Howard (Eds.), Play and learning in the early years (pp. 9-25). London, UK: Sage.

Williams, H. (2012). To what extent might role play be a useful tool for learning mathematics? Mathematics Teaching, 230, 17-20.

Worthington, M., & Van Oers, B. (2016). Pretend play and the cultural foundations of Mathematics. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 24(1), 51-66.

Worthington, M., & Van Oers, B. (2017). Children’s social literacies: meaning making and the emergence of graphical signs and texts in pretence. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(2), 147-175.

Yin, R. K. (2018). Case study research and application: Design and methods. Los Angeles, UK: Sage.


View Counter: Abstract | 426 | times, and PDF | 235 | times

Re S M ICT E | ISSN: 1792-3999 (electronic), 1791-261X (print) | Laboratory of Didactics of Sciences, Mathematics and ICT, Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education - University of Patras.

Pasithee | Library & Information Center | University of Patras