Chinese early childhood teachers’ perspectives on mathematics education in play-based contexts

Wenxuan Zhang, Liang Li, Leigh Disney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Following the increasing impacts on the value of Western play-based pedagogy, early childhood (EC) teachers in China face developmental challenges related to understanding and implementing play-based mathematical education. The purpose of this paper is to explore Chinese EC teachers’ perspectives on play-based mathematics teaching. In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews and lesson plans are collected from six EC teachers in a Chinese kindergarten. Hedegaard’s model is applied to frame analysis for capturing EC teachers’ views and practices from a holistic perspective. The findings show that all six EC teachers valued play as a pedagogical tool for teaching mathematics, while their pedagogical decisions in applying play to children’s mathematics are determined by the various demands from society, parents and children. The multiple demands from different perspectives result in challenges for teachers in designing collective play. This study revealed that only when play activity caters to the possibility of satisfying those demands can teachers pedagogically implement play for children’s mathematical learning. The insights emerging from this study might address the pragmatic challenges that teachers face by enhancing teachers’ professional development to support the advance of culturally sensitive play-based mathematics teaching in China.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalEarly Years
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • early childhood teachers
  • kindergarten
  • mathematics
  • perspectives
  • play

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