Mathematics learning and education from birth to eight years

Ann Downton, Amy MacDonald, Jill Cheeseman, James Russo, Jane McChesney

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


    This chapter presents a critical review and celebration of the most significant Australasian early childhood mathematics education research that has been published over the period 2016-2019. We utilise the internationally-accepted definition of ‘early childhood’ as the age range birth to eight years, encompassing prior to school settings, school settings, as well as home and community contexts. Eminent scholars in the field have undertaken the research presented in this chapter in conjunction with a range of stakeholders in early childhood mathematics education, including teachers, families and children. This chapter is structured according to six key themes which emerged from the preliminary analysis and categorisation of the current research across the Australasian region; namely: Mathematics content; Curriculum, policy and assessment; Aspects of teaching and learning; Home and prior to school contexts; Australian and New Zealand Indigenous education; and Emerging areas of research. Indeed, this review highlights several very promising new areas of research, for example: mathematics education for children aged birth to two years; and innovative research methodologies such as ‘camera glasses’ and ‘trolley cams’ utilised in everyday context. The new areas discussed in this chapter highlight the growing interest in, and opportunities for, research in the early years space. However, with the emergence of new areas of research there has been a decline in other areas such as pattern and algebra, geometry, and length measurement. From the synthesis of the research literature the following findings are evident. First, young children are often capable of mathematical thinking from a very early age, which suggests a mismatch between the intended curriculum and children’s capabilities when they start school. Second, the current education policies within Australia and New Zealand have yet to bridge the mathematical transition from early childhood settings to school. Third, the contrast between a holistic appreciation of the mathematics surrounding children in prior to school settings is in stark contrast to school settings where mathematics is formalised and segmented and less richly experiential. The chapter concludes with a discussion of recommendations for future research in this field.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationResearch in Mathematics Education in Australasia 2016–2019
    EditorsJennifer Way, Catherine Attard, Judy Anderson, Janette Bobis, Katherin Cartwright
    Place of PublicationSingapore Singapore
    Number of pages36
    ISBN (Electronic)9789811542695
    ISBN (Print)9789811542688
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Assessment of early mathematics learning
    • Early childhood curricula
    • Mathematics content
    • Mathematics curricula
    • Pedagogies in early childhood mathematics
    • Transition to school
    • Young Indigenous mathematics learners

    Cite this