‘We make stories one meter long’: children’s participation and meaningful mathematical learning in Early Childhood Education



By taking a cultural-historical perspective, the present case study put participatory pedagogies into practice for early mathematical learning and sought to delve into children’s emerging mathematising and the teacher’s role who attentively follows children’s initiatives. Drawing on a series of selected critical incidents that evolved as the children of a kindergarten classroom engaged with the investigation of linear measuring tools, we analysed both children’s mathematising processes and teacher’s responsive and mediational acts aiming to promote young learners’ mathematical thinking. With respect to children, the analysis demonstrated how through a series of ongoing mathematising processes, they elaborated and gradually developed key measurement concepts. Regarding the teacher's role, it was found that children’s emerging mathematising was supported by five lines of action enacted by her: (a) documenting thoroughly children’s actions, (b) posing challenging or clarifying questions, (c) introducing activities to the plenary as a response to children’s actions, (d) motivating children to ask their classmates for help, and (e) creating connections between children’s funds of knowledge and key mathematical ideas.


Participation, early mathematics, mathematising process, children’s initiatives, play pedagogies

Full Text:



Berthelsen, D. (2009). Participatory learning: Issues for research and practice. In D. Berthelsen, J. Brownlee & E. Johansson (Eds.), Participatory learning in the early years (pp. 1-11). London: Routledge.

Bjorklund, C., Magnusson, M., & Palmer, H. (2018). Teacher’s involvement in children’s mathematizing-beyond dichotomization between play and teaching. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 26(4), 469-480.

Brooker, L. (2011). Taking children seriously: An alternative agenda for research? Journal of Early Childhood Research, 9(2), 137-149.

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.

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

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

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research-planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston: Pearson.

Dockett, S., & Goff, W. (2013). Noticing young children’s mathematical strengths and agency. In V. Steinle, L. Ball & C. Bardini (Eds.), Mathematics education: Yesterday, today and tomorrow, Proceedings of the 36th annual conference of MERGA (pp. 771-774). Melbourne, VIC: MERGA.

Dunphy, L. (2015). Transition to school: Supporting children’s engagement in mathematical thinking process. In B. Perry, A. MacDonald & A. Gervasoni (Eds.), Mathematics and transition to school: International perspectives (pp. 295-312). New York: Springer.

Grossman, S. (2020). The worksheets dilemma. Early childhood News. Retrieved from www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_print.aspx?ArticleId=134.

Hedges, H., & Cooper, M. (2018). Relational play-based pedagogy: Theorising a core practice in early childhood education. Teachers and Teaching, 24(4), 369-383.

Hedges, H., Cullen, J., & Jordan, B. (2011). Early years curriculum: Funds of knowledge as a conceptual framework for children’s interests. Journal of Curriculum Studies 43(2), 185-205.

Hill, M., & Wood, E. (2019). Dead forever’: An ethnographic study of young children’s interests, funds of knowledge and working theories in free play. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 23(2019), 100292.

Irwin, K. C., Vistro-Yu, C. P., & Ell, F. R. (2004). Understanding linear measurement: A comparison of Filipino and New Zealand children. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 16(2), 3-24.

Jupri, A., & Drijvers, P. (2016). Student difficulties in mathematizing word problems in algebra. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, 12(9), 2481-2502.

Kaartinen, S., & Kumpulainen, K. (2012). The emergence of mathematizing as a culture of participation in the early childhood classroom. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20(2), 263-281.

Kangas, J. (2016). Enhancing children’s participation in early childhood education through the participatory pedagogy. Doctoral Thesis, University of Helsinki, Finland. Retrieved from https://helda.helsinki.fi/bitstream/handle/10138/159547/enhancin.pdf?sequence=1.

Kirova, A. (2010). Children’s representations of cultural scripts in play: Facilitating transition from home to preschool in an intercultural early learning program for refugee children. Diaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education, 4(2), 74-91.

Knauf, H. (2017). Documentation as a tool for participation in German early

childhood education and care. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 25(1), 19-35.

Lowrie, T., Logan, T., & Scriven, B. (2012). Perspectives on geometry and measurement in the australian curriculum: Mathematics. In B. Atweh, M. Goos, R. Jorgensen & D. Siemon, (Eds.), Engaging the Australian national curriculum: Mathematics – perspectives from the field (pp. 71-88). Online Publication: MERGA.

MacDonald, A., & Lowrie, T. (2011). Developing measurement concepts within context: Children’s representations of length. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 23(1), 27-42.

Magnusson, M., & Pramling, N. (2018) In ‘Numberland’: Play-based pedagogy in response to imaginative numeracy. International Journal of Early Years Education, 26(1), 24-41.

Mesquita-Pires, C. (2012). Children and professionals rights to participation: A case study. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 20(4), 565-576.

Nah, K. O., & Lee, S. M. (2016). Actualizing children's participation in the development of outdoor play areas at an early childhood institution. Action Research, 14(3), 335-351.

Nunes, T., & Bryant, P. (1996). Children doing mathematics. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Papandreou, Μ., & Tsiouli, Μ. (2020). Noticing and understanding children’s everyday mathematics during play in early childhood classrooms. International Journal of Early Years Education. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2020.1742673.

Papandreou, M., & Yiallouros, S. (2020). Highlighting the features of whole-class interactions in a participatory early childhood environment. Early Child Development and Care, 190(4), 461-477.

Papandreou, M., Sofianopoulou, I., Kalogiannidou, A., & Birbili, M. (2015). ‘Stretching it, I see how tall I am!’. Kindergarten children graphically represent their ideas about the ‘measure’ and its use. In D. Desli, I. Papadopoulos & M.

Tzekaki (Eds.), Proceedings of the 6th Panhellenic conference of researchers’ association of mathematics teaching (pp. 570-579). Retrieved from http://www.enedim.gr/images/praktika_synedrion/6ENEDIM.pdf. (in Greek).

Ramani, G. B., & Eason, S. H. (2015). It all adds up: Learning early math through play and games. Kappan Magazine, 96(8), 27-32.

Ramani, G. B., Zippert, E., Schweitzer, S., & Pan, S. (2014). Preschool children’s joint block-building during a guided play activity. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35, 326-336.

Ransom, M., & Manning, M. (2013). Teaching strategies: Worksheets, worksheets, worksheets. Childhood Education, 89(3), 188-190.

Rogoff, B. (2008). Observing sociocultural activity on three planes: Participatory appropriation, guided participation, and apprenticeship. In K. Hall, P. Murphy & J. Soler (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice: Culture and Identities (pp. 58-74). London: SAGE.

Sarama, J., & Clements, D. H. (2009). Building blocks and cognitive building blocks: Playing to know the world mathematically. American Journal of Play, 1(3), 313-337.

Stake, R. E. (2005). The Art of Case Study Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Tsiouli, Μ., & Papandreou, Μ. (2019). Investigating children’s spontaneous ‘mathematical play’ in kindergarten. Research in Mathematics Teaching, 12, 42-62. Retrieved from https://ejournals.epublishing.ekt.gr/index.php/enedim/article/view/21171/18182. (in Greek).

Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, M., & Buys, K. (2008). Young children learn measurement and geometry. Utrecht. The Netherlands: Freudenthal Institute.

Van Oers, B. (1996). Are you sure? Stimulating mathematical thinking during young children’s play. European Early Childhood Research Journal, 4(1), 71-87.

Van Oers, B. (2010). Emergent mathematical thinking in the context of play. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 74(1), 23-37.

Van Oers, B., & Duijkers, D. (2013). Teaching in a play-based curriculum: Theory, practice and evidence of developmental education for young children. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45(4), 511-534.

Vellopoulou, A., & Papandreou, M. (2019). Investigating the teacher’s roles for the integration of science learning and play in the kindergarten. Educational Journal of the University of Patras UNESCO Chair, 6(1), 186-196.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/rev.3511

View Counter: Abstract | 143 | times, and PDF | 109 | 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