Mathematics is an important aspect of science, technology, art and many other school subjects, and it influences every aspect of society, including economic, social, business, scientific, agricultural, environmental, medical, industrial and technological, and importantly it contributes to higher living standards (Fatima, 2014). In England it has been a significant government focus since the National Numeracy Strategy was introduced in 1999, when, at that time the government were concerned that standard in mathematics in England had dropped, in comparison to other countries. Their goal was to raise awareness of the teaching of mathematics, and consequently to raise pupils's levels of achievement.
What is 'Children's Mathematics' and why is it important?
Children's own mathematics refers to children's thinking about aspects of mathematics, and is often triggered by their own enquiries. Babies self-enquire about the mathematical phenomena which are evident in their worlds, as they explore space and shape, beginning with feel, size and taste. As children grow and develop, they retain this drive, their natural curiosity leading them to experiment. They learn best when they explore in their own ways, the things that they are interested in (Athey, 1990). Young children have a huge capacity to think and rethink their own lines of enquiry and ways of communicating, acting mathematically, through play and self-initiated exploration, talk and graphics. Children's Mathematical Graphics are an important aspect of Children's Mathematics.
Too often mathematics is not well understood and children leave school with a dislike of the subject, have a poor understanding of it and admit that they are no good at maths. Children's Mathematics is important because it is their own and they understand their mathematics. If we give children ownership of their mathematics by authentically listening and encouraging their mathematical thinking, then the power of mathematics will be returned to them.
Children's Mathematical Graphics
Why are children’s own mathematics, and the personal, graphical signs they use to communicate their thinking (Children’s Mathematical Graphics, i.e., CMG) so very important?
Children’s Mathematical Graphics is the term we originated to describe the marks, signs and symbols that children freely (and often spontaneously) choose to use to communicate their mathematical thinking. Our use of the word graphics includes scribbles, lines, dots, drawings, tally marks, crosses, ticks, children’s early (emergent) writing, and invented and standard abstract mathematical symbols.
In 1986, Martin Hughes's seminal work on the difficulties young children experience in learning mathematics, was published. Hughes recommended that "teachers "find out about children's mathematical background"; "Build on children's own strategies" and "respect children's invented symbolism" (1986. pp. 176-177), pointing to what we believed could be an emergent mathematics approach. This guidance is at the heart of Children's Mathematical Graphics.
Athey, C. (2007). Extending Thought in Young Children. Paul Chapman.
Fatima, R. (2014).The role of mathemaitcs in the development of society. National meet on celebration of National Year of Mathemaitcs - 2012.
Hughes, M. (1986). Children and Number: Difficulties in Learning Mathematics. Basil Blackwell.