Young children's acquisition of mathematical knowledge and mathematics education in kindergarten

Chung, Kuei-Er
Major Professor
Susan M. Hegland
Committee Member
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Human Development and Family Studies

Kindergarten is a bridge linking children's informally learned mathematical knowledge to formal school-taught Mathematics; To gain a better understanding of young children's acquisition of mathematical knowledge and actual mathematics teaching and learning in kindergarten, this dissertation aims to (1) examine existing literature on young children's acquisition of mathematical knowledge, (2) examine existing literature on the current classroom practices in kindergarten, and (3) investigate actual classroom practices relating to mathematics teaching and learning in kindergarten;To investigate kindergarten classroom practices in mathematical teaching and learning, 30 Iowa kindergarten teachers and children in their classes were studied. Relations between the observed teaching and learning behaviors and developmental appropriateness scores were examined. Results indicated that mathematics teaching was integrated with other learning activities in kindergarten. Teachers spent about one-fourth of their classroom time teaching mathematics and kindergarten children spent about one-third of their classroom time participating in mathematics-related learning activities. Although the use of higher cognitive distancing was less frequent than use of low cognitive distancing across all learning activities in kindergarten, teachers used higher cognitive distancing during a greater proportion of mathematics teaching time than of time spent teaching nonmathematics-related activities. Kindergarten children's classroom behaviors reflected their teachers' teaching behaviors in that children spent more time responding to teachers' higher cognitive distancing in learning mathematics than in learning nonmathematics-related activities. The study also found that the degree of kindergartens' developmental appropriateness, as measured by the Assessment Profile for Early Childhood Programs, was correlated with the amount of time children spent participating in learning activities. Children in kindergartens whose practices were more in accord with the NAEYC guidelines on developmentally appropriate practices more frequently initiated learning-related conversations, such as asking questions and offering suggestions, than children in other kindergartens. They also had more opportunities to interact with the teacher, peers, and classroom materials. The theories supporting these findings and implications of the results are discussed.