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“Quarters Are What You Put into the Bubble Gum Machine”: Numeracy Interactions during Parent-Child Play

Author(s): Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler | Jackie Nelson | Charity Bumpass

Journal: Early Childhood Research & Practice
ISSN 1524-5039

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Keywords: Numeracy | Young Children | Play | Parent Role

Literacy has been studied extensively in the context of children's play, but few studies exist of numeracy development through play. The purpose of this study was to investigate the frequency and type of numeracy exchanges that occurred spontaneously during parent-child play. Twenty-six 4-year-olds and their mothers played with a variety of toys, including a cash register and play money, for 15 minutes. Three types of numeracy interactions were examined, including cultural, procedural, and mathematical exchanges. Results indicated that approximately one-half of the numeracy interactions related to mathematical concepts, one-third to cultural exchanges, and one-sixth to procedural information. The majority of parents provided conceptual information through implicit teaching rather than direct, didactic teaching of number skills during play. Parents initiated significantly more numeracy interactions than children, but the 4-year-olds initiated about one-fifth of the exchanges. The present study has implications for preschool and kindergarten programs, parent education, and home-school partnerships. Connections between the home and literacy development are often studied, but numeracy connections and home environments have been ignored. Teachers can capitalize on the opportunity to reinforce numeracy concepts being taught more formally at school by including informal, home-based play activities as well as structured number activities with parental involvement. Parents and children in this study demonstrated that numeracy-related interactions occur naturally in discourse during play, and that play is an important social context for guidance of numeracy development.
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