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Teachers as researchers

Teachers as Researchers

Since Martin Hughes' seminal research which uncovered that children had their own ways of representing their mathematics researchers have mainly concentrated on replicating his 'tins game' (1986). Few have branched out into the question of how this can filter into classrooms. As Hughes himself said, this is not an easy task and at conferences in Bristol and in Exmouth, he expressed that children had difficulties with the standard written mathematics and teachers asked him what is the answer. He did not have an answer and he turned the question back on them and said perhaps they could find out.

    In 2003, we published our first book (Worthington and Carruthers)  which put forward that it was supporting the children's representations that would bridge the gap between children's informal mathematics to their understanding the abstract symbolism of school mathematics. We were classroom teachers at the time. It is the power of classroom teachers' research that is vital to move thinking on about the pedagogy of children's mathematical graphics. Hughes was right to place the quest for more understanding of children's mathematics in the hands of teachers. It is teacher researchers, who work with children everyday that will move thinking forward. 

     Sharkey, Olarte and Ramfrez (2006) state, “Teachers are legitimate contributors to the knowledge base, are experts of their particular contexts, capable of theorizing classroom practices, and contributing to reform/policy debates” (p. 307).


Teachers who have contributed to the knowledge of children's mathematics:


Carruthers, E., & Butcher, E. (2013). Mathematics: Young children co-construct their mathematical enquiries. In P. Beckley (Ed.), Early years foundation stage (pp. 91-104). Open University Press.

      This chapter discusses children's play and how the children develop their understanding of mathematics through their everyday cultural experiences. Emma Butcher is an expert classroom teacher, in this chapter she relates observations of her play and how children co-construct their mathematical understanding. 


Carruthers, E. (2012). Are the children thinking mathematically? The pedagogy of children’s mathematical graphics. In M. McAteer (Ed.), Improving primary mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 192-212). Open University Press.

     In this chapter Karen Shepheard, a Reception classroom teacher, narrates stories of the children and how they use their mathematical graphics to work out mathematical problems. She gives teachers advice on how to start observing children's mathematics.


Carruthers, E., & Worthington, M. (2011). Understanding children’s mathematical graphics: Beginnings in play. Open University Press.