An analysis of conversations between children and teachers in nursery counting activities
Learning to count is a central strand to the mathematical development area of the Foundation Stage Curriculum in England and Wales. Five teachers from five nurseries in one local education authority within West Yorkshire were recorded between December 2002 and June 2003. The main data for the study was taken from 21 number focus activities recorded between the teachers and small groups of children, aged 3-4 years. Conversation Analysis was used to determine the language and interaction involved, considering both children and teachers' contributions to counts and to what came before and after counts. The study found that the teachers were responsible for creating the conversational contexts for counting as well as being involved in the counting itself. The collaboration between teachers and children in counts included distinctive uses of intonation in ways that emphasised the status of numbers in the count sequence and the importance of the last word. Following counts, the study identified ways in which the quantitative meaning of counting could be extended or left implicit. This study depicts counting as a fully interactive activity that contrasts with the image portrayed in much of previous literature where children count independently and opportunities for teachers' participation are under-specified and implicitly passive.