Play Research in Mathematics Education (PRIME)The Mathematics of Kindergarten

Project owner

Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Department of Language, Literature, Mathematics and Interpreting

Project categories

Basic Research

Project period

February 2015 - June 2018

Project summary

In this project, we consider what mathematics is and could be in kindergartens from a range of different perspectives in order to contribute to future discussions about potential changes to this field. Our tri-fold aim for the project is:

  1. describe what mathematics is currently in Norwegian kindergartens, including documenting the impact of innovations, such as the introduction of new technologies or social processes such as multiculturalism

  2. theorise how mathematical situations in kindergarten came to have that position by considering social, cultural and historical contributors to this positioning

  3. use the model to predict possible consequences from changes to be implemented so that more socially-just mathematical situations could be made available in Norwegian kindergartens, this is particularly important with the coming of a new Barnehagen Rammeplan next year.

In order to investigate this aim, we have decided to describe mathematical situations in kindergartens using Bishop’s (1988) six mathematical activities. The current Norwegian Rammeplan (curriculum) uses Bishop’s 6 mathematical activities as a basis for the mathematics that should be offered in kindergartens. In previous research, we have found that this way of describing mathematics has allowed for a more acute awareness of the assumptions underlying and premising discussions about the perceptions on this issue of different stakeholders, such as children, teachers, parents, curriculum developers. This is because Bishop’s six mathematical activities do not have the same sets of social, cultural, or historical baggage that school mathematics does.

Our focus of enquiry is to consider different perspectives on what mathematics in kindergarten is or could be. Therefore, we will consider issues such as the history of childhood, transitions between home and kindergarten, kindergarten and school and between situations/foci/content within kindergartens. We also want to investigate how teaching mathematics in kindergartens, with the widest possible meaning of the term teaching, affects teachers professional identity.

To do this, we want to investigate how children are positioned when engaging in mathematical situations by the curriculum, teachers, other children and themselves. We have a particular interest in how multiculturalism fits into this context, both within preschool but also how parents and the wider society’s views on aspects of multiculturalism impact on mathematics in kindergartens. This is because, like the recent introduction of information and communication technologies, the impact of multiculturalism on mathematics in kindergartens is a relatively new consideration and as such provides important information about the established norms around what has traditionally been considered to be mathematics in kindergartens.


To carry out this project, we will collect a range of different data. These will include:

  1. rich naturalistic video data from preschools

  2. already available resources such as curricula, historical documents, videos

  3. documentation from teachers, parents, children

  4. documentation from teachers, parents, children