Communicating About Number: Fostering Young Children’s Mathematical Orientation in the World

  • Bert van Oers
Part of the Advances in Mathematics Education book series (AME)


Future citizens need a basic proficiency in mathematics, usually referred to as mathematical literacy. This article argues that mathematical literacy can be fostered from an early age by helping children with exploring their actual play situations from the perspective of number, and with translating number related problems into thinking objects that are accessible for mathematical refinement (i.e. mathematising). Through observational studies of young children’s play it is found that this mathematising can meaningfully take place in the context of young children’s play, and is strongly related children’s learning to communicate about number in a coherent way, rather than by training them on number operations. The article presents evidence from case studies that support the claim that early mathematising in young children involves at least three dimensions: involving children in mathematising activities, helping them to invent symbolic means for referring to number aspects of reality (communicating with number), and guided examination of properties of number (communicating about number). Its is concluded that young children’s mathematical orientation in the world can be fostered in the context of children’s play under the guidance of a teacher who helps children with improving their way of communicating about number.


Mathematical literacy Mathematising Orientation Communication Play 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Research and Theory in Education, Faculty of Psychology and EducationVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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