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A typology of mathematical moments in kindergarten classrooms

Elizabeth Petit Cunningham, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The purpose of this study was to identify, describe, understand, and categorize mathematical moments within kindergarten classrooms. I defined mathematical moments as a time in the kindergarten school day - outside of planned instructional time for mathematics- when children experience, explore, or engage with mathematical ideas. These are moments of potential learning initiated by the teacher or a student. They could occur in any subject area and during transition times. Mathematical moments occur when children are engaged informally in building understanding of mathematics. Using observations of 30 kindergarten classrooms and semi-structured interviews with the teachers, a typology of mathematical moments was constructed. Qualitative and quantitative strategies (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2014) were used to analyze the data. The typology identifies the types of mathematical moments within kindergarten classrooms along with the mathematics addressed in the moments. Two hundred ninety-six mathematical moments were identified in the data set. Findings suggest mathematical moments are not identical to teachable moments (e.g., Glasswell & Parr, 2009; Hansen, 1998; Hyun & Marshall, 2003), although they share some similar characteristics. Mathematical moments differ from teachable moments in two ways. Mathematical moments can be planned for and made part of intentional instruction while teachable moments are spontaneous. Teachable moments are always child initiated while mathematical moments may also originate from the structures of the school day, including how the school day is organized and how students move through the day. Findings also suggest mathematical moments could be used as an instructional tool for preservice and in-service teachers to advance children’s understanding of mathematics by engaging children in authentic problems that require students to communicate and reason about the mathematics in order to find solutions to their questions.

Subject Area

Mathematics education|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Petit Cunningham, Elizabeth, "A typology of mathematical moments in kindergarten classrooms" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3714921.