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"Tip in three blops of milk...." : an ethnographic study of the development of mathematical concepts and language in Early Childhood Education


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Dunn, Eva(Eva Maria) 1994 , '"Tip in three blops of milk...." : an ethnographic study of the development of mathematical concepts and language in Early Childhood Education', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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It is becoming increasingly obvious that many students taught according to
traditional methods do not develop a thorough understanding of the
concepts of mathematics. Much of what they can do is mechanically learnt
with no links to a body of interrelated concepts, to the web of meanings
which lie at the heart of a quantitative view of the world. It would seem
that what is lacking in the teaching of mathematics is the teaching of its
language. A language is truly learnt when it can be used to communicate
ideas to others and can provide a medium for further thought.
The aim of this study was to take elements from the theory of language and
of mathematics education and apply them in a classroom setting. The study
employed ethnographic methods to record the interactions and the
outcomes of the curriculum. This dissertation explores the way the
curriculum worked for a group of low achieving students, and attempts to
make further suggestions for improving practice.
Eleven six and seven year old children, pupils of a country primary school
in Tasmania, were selected by their teachers to participate in this study.
They were judged to be poor performers in both language and mathematics.
These children were taught as a small group for five weeks, one hour each
school day by the researcher. All the mathematical activities were presented
in a narrative context, they all had reference to the children's lives, and the
work itself was carried out using concrete materials. The classroom climate
and general teaching approach was very much like that described by
Bickmore-Brand (1993) whose teaching in mathematics followed the
language teaching advocated by Cambourne. Children were given practice
at speaking about mathematics by frequent audio taping at the conclusion of
The information collection methods employed were those required of
ethnographic studies, including the participant observer, her diary of
reflections, children's taped language, children's work and the remarks of
their teachers. Individual testing sessions were conducted during the sixth
week of the study. The results showed, that compared with three control
children, the participating children had learnt many new concepts, and
could apply them in similar as well as in challenging new situations. Their
taped language improved markedly, as did the children's ability to express
themselves mathematically and to understand directions concerning
mathematical problems.
The happy atmosphere of the sessions, the good relationships which
developed, and the increased competence of the children in both
mathematics and language, confirm the choice of the teaching
methodology. The problems encountered, the children whose behaviour
was at times negative, have provided ideas for further developments.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Dunn, Eva(Eva Maria)
Keywords: Early childhood education, English language, Language arts, Mathematics, Number concept
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1994 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 72-76). Thesis (M.Ed.Stud.)--University of Tasmania, 1993

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