CMNetwork E-bulletin: July 2016

    © Copyright M. Worthington & E. Carruthers 2012

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Children’s graphics: Shereen (Nursery)

Valuing, understanding and assessing children’s graphics
It would be easy to assume that figure A was made by an older child (or by the same child when older) - than that shown in figure B. However, Shereen made both, figure A three months earlier that figure B, and showing the influence of the context in which they were made.

A. 8th January: child-initiated writing. B. 17th March: pretend play.

Figure A: Shereen had borrowed her teacher’s notebook to write in. She referred to the numerals in circles as ‘buttons’ (possibly relating to buttons on a calculator or computer), reading them as ‘1, 2, 3, 4’. Then writing the letters at the top of the page, read them as ‘drawing’.


  • graphicacy: writing;

  • children’s mathematical graphics: numerals as labels.

Figure B was written in the course of Shereen’s pretend play with a friend, playing shops. Shereen read her list, ‘Cheeseburger, apples, tomato. Cheese, chicken, rice, sugar, mango juice. I’m writing chocolate bar’.


  • graphicacy: writing;

  • children’s mathematical graphics: early explorations with marks, signs and symbols.

Children often use scribble-marks for writing in their pretend play, perhaps to avoid interrupting the flow of their play. At these times their marks appear to be an indication of writing rather than an attempt to write letters. Shereen used a wide range of letters of the alphabet and numerals in a range of contexts throughout the year, interspersed with scribble-marks in some play contexts.

Gallery 7: The emergence of graphic symbols and texts in pretend play
Gallery 8: Children's graphic symbols and texts in self-initiated contexts.


Latest publications:

Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B. (2016) Pretend Play and the cultural foundations of mathematics. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 24 (1). 51-66.

Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B. (2015) Children’s social literacies: Meaning making and the emergence of graphical signs and texts in pretence. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 16(1), 1-29.

Carruthers, E. (2015). Listening to children's mathematics in school. In B. Perry., A. Gervasoni and A. MacDonald. Eds. Mathematics and Transition to School - International Perspectives. Sydney, Australia: Springer.

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