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Maria Johansson

Preschool Math explained

Published: 10 April 2015

That children in preschools are working with mathematics may seem obvious. But it is only now preschool mathematics has been further examined and defined, thanks to new research at Luleå University of Technologt.
– It is very different from school mathematics, says researcher Maria Johansson.

Ten years ago it was not meant that mathematics as a subject would exist in the preschools. That means that many, completely naturally, are unsure of what mathematics in preschools even is. That question invertigates Maria Johansson in her doctoral thesis Perceptions of mathematics in preschool: "Now we have a way of talking about the mathematics that we can work with".

The research is based on Bishop's six mathematical activities that the preschool curriculum is based upon.

– These activities will strengthen preschool teachers in their way of working. The feeling of "we don't know this" seem to disappear with them when they have access to the activities, says Maria Johansson.

The professionals thinks differently

The research showed that the university trained preschool teacher has a different definition of mathematics than the child care staff has. The child care staff are focused on numbers and counting while preschool teachers work a lot with measurement.

– It's very exciting because it has, in Matematiklyftet, has been a huge investment in skills development for preschool teachers. But child care staff have not had the same opportunity and there the focus on numbers and counting remains. This reinforces Matematiklyftet since we do not just think it's working, we have research that shows that it does.

Who gets pre-algebra?

Previously, preschool math has been seen as a precursor to school mathematics. But looking at the preschool and school mathematics with the same glasses does not work, thinks Maria Johansson.

– Preschool mathematics was described as pre-algebra, pre-geometry ... not even I who am a mathematician understood exactly what that s.

Double PhD

Maria Johansson now gets her second PhD title. Since previously, she is also a PhD in mathematics.

– I notice that the parts that I as a mathematician greatly value, such as creativity, has completely disappeared in the school mathematics but it's very present in the preschool.

The research on preschool math is far from over for Maria Johansson. Her thesis answers the questions she asked, but she got at least as many new questions back.

– We need studies on whether this affects children's school performance.

Bishop's six fundamental mathematical activities are:

  1. Explanation and argumentation
  2. Localization
  3. Design
  4. Bill
  5. Measurement
  6. Games and play

Contact Person

Maria Johansson

Maria Johansson, Associate Professor, Head of Division

Phone: +46 (0)920 491009
Organisation: Mathematics Education, Education and Languages, Department of Health, Education and Technology