Teachers’ Roles in Preschool Children’s Collective Mathematical Reasoning

Sumpter, L. & Hedefalk, M.
European Journal of STEM Education, 3(3):16


The purpose of the study is to investigate what it means to understand mathematics at kindergarten level. In order to explore this, the researchers looked at the opportunities kindergarten children get to participate in mathematical reasoning.

The research questions are:

1) What type of arguments can be found in collective mathematical reasoning in a kindergarten setting?

2) What are the different roles that kindergarten teachers play in connection with these arguments?


The researchers identified three ‘movements’ in the roles played by the kindergarten teacher: (1) teaching movements, (2) affirmative movements and (3) conclusive movements. There were no generative movements where the children were asked to make other arguments regarding strategic choices or conclusions. Both the affirmative movement and the conclusive movement served as conclusions to arguments and therefore placed limitations on the opportunities the children were given to learn creative mathematical reasoning. This is despite the fact that several of the episodes were created by the kindergarten teachers, both through planned activities and in informal situations such as free play.


The data was collected through video recordings from 17 visits to a Swedish kindergarten over a period of two months. The researchers gained access to three different groups of children, with children aged 1–2 years old, 3–4 years old and 5 years old, respectively.

The researchers transcribed 13 hours and 30 minutes of observations in which children and adults collaborated on solving mathematical tasks. Based on this material, the researchers identified 21 different episodes of collective mathematical reasoning within various mathematical disciplines, such as measurement (of height, weight and time) using both formal and informal units, counting and basic arithmetic (addition) and geometry (shapes).

In the analysis of the data material, the researchers focused on the content of the mathematical reasoning, i.e. the arguments that were used to solve the tasks. In addition, they analysed the types of roles that the kindergarten teacher took on when working with the tasks.


Sumpter, L. & Hedefalk, M. (2018). “Teachers’ Roles in Preschool Children’s Collective Mathematical Reasoning”. European Journal of STEM Education, 3(3):16.