Barnehagelæreres «matematikkundervisning» i barnehagen

Sæbbe, P. E.
Universitetet i Stavanger


International kindergarten research has traditionally focused more on children’s learning than on kindergarten teachers’ teaching. Several theories about children’s learning have been developed, but there is a need to develop theories regarding the teaching practices of kindergarten teachers’. This study contributes to the theorisation of teaching in a Norwegian kindergarten context – using mathematics as a case.

Norwegian kindergarten is defined in an educational welfare kindergarten tradition, with a holistic view of learning where children learn through play and everyday activities. This study investigates the characteristics of mathematics teaching in everyday activities in such a kindergarten context. The doctoral study consists of 4 sub-studies that contribute with different perspectives on mathematics teaching in Norwegian kindergartens. The primary goal is to theorise how mathematics teaching in Norwegian kindergartens can develop in everyday activities.


Discussion regarding the sub-studies’ contributions is organised around three topics: 1) whether or not the work conducted by kindergarten teachers can be characterised as teaching, 2) whether or not this work is mathematical, and 3) the challenges that the work entails and the demands that these challenges place on the kindergarten teachers regarding their competence. In the Norwegian kindergarten context, it is controversial to use the term teaching for the work conducted by kindergarten teachers. This study’s analyses of kindergarten teachers’ work involving mathematics in everyday situations show that kindergarten teachers try to direct children’s attention towards mathematics with the purpose of supporting their learning, and therefore this work can be described as teaching. The mathematical aspects of kindergarten teachers’ work are particularly related to identifying mathematics in play and everyday situations, establishing and maintaining a common focus on mathematics, and deliberately using mathematical concepts and language. Working with mathematics in everyday activities is a complex task that involves, among other things, challenges in directing attention towards something other than what the activities initially seem to be about.

The purpose of the study is not to change Norwegian kindergartens into being more like school and the mathematical work conducted at school at the expense of children’s free play. The study contributes to the development of language and concepts to describe the characteristics of mathematics teaching in a Norwegian kindergarten context, the challenges that this poses to kindergarten teachers, and the demands that this places on kindergarten teachers regarding their competence. As a result, the study contributes to developing the work of kindergarten teachers towards becoming a more professional practice.


The study is based on qualitative data from the practice of five kindergarten teachers. The kindergarten teachers were asked to carry out an everyday activity in which they worked with mathematics with the children, and these everyday activities were filmed. Afterwards, the kindergarten teachers were interviewed based on the video recordings of the everyday activities. The analyses are inspired by constant comparative methodology, where the aim is to construct theory based on empirical data.

Sub-study 1 discusses what makes work involving the subject area of number, space and form mathematical. Mathematical questions and feedback are identified as two key challenges in the kindergarten teachers’ mathematical communication. Sub-study 2 discusses the extent to which mathematical work in kindergarten can be called teaching, and looks for characteristics in the educational welfare kindergarten tradition. Sub-study 3 points to the type of skills used by kindergarten teachers in this work and the demands that this professional work places on them. Sub-study 4 analyses the challenges of mathematics teaching in an educational welfare kindergarten tradition.


Sæbbe, P. E. (2019). “Barnehagelæreres «matematikkundervisning» i barnehagen”. Akademisk avhandling. Universitetet i Stavanger.