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Not All Math Talk Counts the Same:

Identifying Math Conversations in Play That Promote Early Mathematical Thinking in Preschools

2015-2016 Academic Year


Principal Investigators: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Sudha Swaminathan, Alysson Iannicelli
Student Researchers: Sarah Coady (majors: Early Childhood Education and Psychology), Olivia Palen (Early Childhood Education and Psychology)

Recent research indicates that mathematics abilities in preschool are a powerful predictor of both math achievement and overall school success in later years. The frequency of math talk, in which teachers and parents use words and phrases to converse with children about mathematical concepts, has been found to promote math abilities, particularly for children living in poverty. This research suggests that preschool teachers frequently engage their students in rich math conversations.

All math of these conversations with children can increase math learning. However, one investigation, conducted in home settings, found that certain types of math talk have the most powerful effect. In the present study we are observing video of teacher-child math conversations in four preschool classrooms during center time and categorizing the different types of such talk that occur naturally in play. The outcome of the study will be an observation instrument-to be used in future research and classroom evaluations-that enumerates and describes the different types of math talk that teachers can use in play. A follow-up study is planned, using this instrument, to determine which specific math conversations lead most directly to preschool math learning.

See more Previous Studies