Young children's apprenticeship in number

Young, James Stark (1995) Young children's apprenticeship in number. Doctoral thesis, University of North London.


This thesis investigates young children's appropriation and use of number through social mediative practices which may occur at home or in pre-school playgroups/nurseries. The design and interpretation of this study is drawn from a social constructivist perspective, that is rooted in Vygotskian developmental psychology (Vygotsky, 1978;1986) and leans heavily upon the writings of Wittgenstein (1953) and Vologinov (1973). Number is viewed as an enculturational development, where meaning is appropriated from social use, rather than as an individual cognitive development. Thus it is argued that the acquisition of number stems from mediated social practice. Number meaning is acknowledged to be intrapsychologically structured in the individual through rhetorical-responsive social communication (Shotter 1993). The research data emanates from five different sources, home video recordings, preschool video recordings, parent interviews, parental diary studies, and nursery teacher interviews. A two dimensional coding schedule, grounded in the research data and based upon theoretical considerations, is developed to analyze transcripts of young children's social interaction involving number utterance. The coding schedule enables an examination of number:

(1) mediation practices (Adult/social other; Child performance; Self-regulation)
(2) aspects of 'use-meaning' being mediated to young children.

The coded analysis of data also enables measures of quantity and quality of mediated numerical interaction from different settings to be compared. A taxonomy of activities that are employed at home, and at pre-school playgroups/nurseries, to mediate aspects of number to young children are also developed.

The results indicate that although some homes have higher quantity and quality rates than some pre-school playgroups/nurseries, on average a young child will receive more mediated numerical interaction at pre-school/nursery, hour for hour, than at home. The highest quality and quantity rates were measured in a primary school nursery classroom, and these were almost three times as high as the average home.

The thesis contributes to our knowledge about how aspects of number 'use-meaning' are socially mediated to individual young children through rhetorical-responsive communication.

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