Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Collaborative Frameworks for Early Numeracy: The House That Josh Built

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Collaborative Frameworks for Early Numeracy: The House That Josh Built

Article excerpt

Introduction

Dichotomies regarding conceptions of the nature and possible place of literacy, numeracy, technological literacy (technocy), and science within the two systems regulating early childhood education have existed for some time. During recent years, however, efforts to form more continuous, coherent and collaborative frameworks between informal and formal early education programs have gradually been gathering strength (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997; New South Wales Department of Education and Training, 1994; Neuman & Roskos, 1997; Rowe, 1994). Contributions from beyond our own shores have been welcomed (Cannella, 1997; Kagan, 1996; Siraj-Blatchford, 1997; Young-Loveridge, 1996), but acceptance and implementation occurred mainly as a result of changes of attitude arising from our own endeavours (Comber, 1998; Dockett & Fleer, 1999; Fleer, 1995, 1996). Underlying these new attitudes is the concern that introduction of subject-specific content into the curriculum is highly likely to threaten young children's capacities and opportunities for active, self-initiating and self-regulating involvement, and that a content- or outcomes-based curriculum would be likely to require teacher-direction and closed activities to become predominant. Highly valued play contexts and potential for mediational or collaborative frameworks may also be threatened. With literacy gradually becoming an integral component of open-ended contexts in prior-to-school settings, it may be opportune to begin to view numeracy as having similar potential.

In its broadest sense, becoming numerate involves a capacity to use mathematics successfully to fulfil everyday requirements at home, at work, or in any aspect of social or community life (Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, 1998). Current conceptions of numeracy have a sociocultural component, a content component (the mathematical knowledge), and a psychosocial component for applying numerate knowledge confidently, fluently and competently to complete a particular task (Department of Education and Children's Services, 1997). Implicit in this definition is an understanding that numerate endeavours are not only integral to our everyday lives but are also undertaken comfortably and with a degree of pleasure and satisfaction. These conceptions correspond with understanding of literacy and its purposes to fulfil societal needs and apply literate knowledge for real-world purposes.

Collaborative frameworks for learning have many derivatives across many domains, and are being viewed here as linguistic and activity-based interactional contexts whose aims are to allow participants to have equal opportunities to contribute to the meaning-making process. The communication roles of instructor, evaluator, and mediator occur in both formal and informal contexts (Macmillan, 1997), but in collaborative frameworks it is expected that the mediator role would be predominant. That is to say, the teacher is able to play down the role of authority figure and controller of the teaching--learning process because of the nature of the activities and a sense of shared ownership of the teaching--learning experience (Vygotsky, 1962, 1978). The teacher can carefully tune into and build on the contributions of the children due to the emphasis on providing some challenge in terms of the introduction of new skills and concepts.

One of the underlying aims of the present project was to follow through ideas emanating from a major study which explored the interface of informal and formal learning environments focusing mainly on mathematical meanings (Macmillan, 1997). In the earlier study it was found that the potential for mathematical development in informal settings was extensive, and could be identified and nurtured without disrupting child-centred practices (Bredekamp, 1987). In the school mathematics classrooms, small group work and unstructured activities permitted the highest potential for creativity and collaboration. …

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