Teachers' pedagogical mathematical awareness in diverse child-age-groups

Björklund, C., & Barendregt, W.
NOMAD – Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education 21(4), 115-134.


The authors of this study investigate preschool teachers' attention to four mathematical areas: number sense, number sequence, geometrical shapes and patterns in their pedagogical work with children of different ages. The research questions are: Are there differences in teachers’ attention to the different mathematical content areas depending on the age group they are teaching? And if mathematical content areas show differences between age groups, what pedagogical awareness levels constitute these differences? The authors construct six awareness levels to assess the teachers' pedagogical mathematical awareness: two basic levels covering the teachers' awareness of their own use of mathematics in preschool practice; two levels of the teachers' awareness of the children's use of mathematics; and finally two levels of how the teachers involve the children in mathematical exploration.


The frequency at which teachers work with mathematical content is higher for the 4-5-year-olds, but the teachers' choice of specific mathematical content areas does not necessarily depend on the age of the children. Both age groups have relatively high focus on number sense, followed by slightly less focus on number sequence and geometrical shapes, whereas patterns are given least focus. The differences between age groups are smallest for number sense, as this area is given relatively high priority within both groups. Differences between the 1-3-year-olds and the 4-5-year-olds are larger for the other three mathematical content areas.

The frequency of observing and engaging children in mathematics is slightly lower among teachers working with the younger children. Moreover, significant and substantial differences appear in the teachers' attention to children's mathematical initiatives and problematising of number sequences, geometrical shapes and patterns. The 4-5-year-olds are generally presented with more challenges within all mathematical content areas. The study shows significant differences between age groups (in favour of the older children) regarding the teachers' choice of numbers as a learning content in the preschool, their support to the children in connection with distinguishing between and communicating number sequences, their observations of children initiating exploration and application of mathematics, and between problematising and challenging mathematical concepts together with the children (significant for all areas, except for number sense).

The authors assess the results to be in line with previous research emphasising numbers as the primary mathematical learning content in preschool, whereas geometry and spatial aspects are less prevalent.


The participating preschool teachers came from three municipalities in Sweden. A questionnaire was distributed to 147 preschool teachers and had a response rate of 79%. The authors focussed on teachers who worked with children of 1-3 years old and with children aged 4-5 years old (a total of 105 preschool teachers). The questionnaire examined the teachers' knowledge about mathematical content areas in relation to children's learning and their knowledge about mathematical didactics.


Björklund, C., & Barendregt, W. (2016).Teachers' pedagogical mathematical awareness in diverse child-age-groups. NOMAD – Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education 21(4), 115-134.

Björklund, C. & Barendregt, W. (2016).Teachers’ Pedagogical Mathematical Awareness in Swedish Early Childhood Education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 60(3), 359-377.

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