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The Relationship of Teacher-Child Math Talk

During Preschool Play To

Young Children's Mathematics Learning


Funded by the Spencer Foundation

Principal Investigators: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Sudha Swaminathan
Student Researchers: Daphne Botteron, Stefanie Dominguez, Dominique McLean, Sarah Coady, Samantha Normington, Olivia Palen, Liah Sinquefield, Amanda Terenzi

In preschool classrooms, math talk-conversation between teachers and children about mathematics-has been associated with growth in math learning. The purpose of this investigation was to identify specific types of math talk during free play that predict children's math learning over the course of a year. Pre- and post-test assessments of math ability were administered to 40 three- and four-year-olds, using the Tools for Early Assessment of Mathematics (TEAM). Between these two assessment periods, researchers recorded naturalistic math talk interactions between children and teachers during play. Researchers then coded specific features of these conversations, including the math domains being discussed and the syntactic structures and discourse purposes of teacher math utterances during these conversations. Researchers conducted hierarchical multiple regression analyses and identified the relative contributions of these math talk features to growth in math learning. Significant associations with increases in math ability were found for the frequency of math talk in five domains: cardinality, abstract counting, ordinality, and shape attributes. Open-ended questions in math talk were significantly associated with math learning. Math talk utterances that modeled mathematical thinking and posed open-ended math problems for children to solve were also significantly related to growth in TEAM scores. These findings inform professional practice by identifying specific math talk domains that enhance learning in preschool and suggest that teachers ask open-ended math questions in play and use math talk to model mathematical thinking and pose open-ended problems.

This study built on a previous CECE study, The Relationship of Teacher-Child Interactions in Preschool Play to Young Children's Mathematical Ability.

See more Previous Investigations