Macquarie University
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The role of picture books in promoting mathematics teaching and learning for young children

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:26 authored by Jennifer Marston
Picture book experiences in the early years have been found to not only facilitate children's literacy skills but also promote mathematics learning. The inclusion of mathematical ideas and terms (in the text and illustrations of picture books) supports skills acquisition and conceptual understanding, retention of knowledge, and positive attitudes toward mathematics. Considering the wide range of picture books available on the market, many with rich mathematics learning potential, this study was designed to assist professionals in using picture books to promote mathematics learning and pedagogy. This research, that used a multi-method approach, provides a broader perspective than do previous similar studies. It was conducted in three phases. Phase 1 comprised a content analysis of 136 books in which three different types of mathematical picture books were identified and classified as perceived, embedded, or explicit. A framework for the selection and evaluation of picture books for mathematical learning was then developed using a modified Delphi process. A survey of 27 professionals evaluated the classification scheme and framework, the results highlighting the value of the framework but the need for professional development for recognising mathematics in real-life contexts. Interviews with four picture book authors and/or author-illustrators in Phase 2 revealed why and how they incorporate mathematical concepts in their books. Phase 3 focused on a classroom study of 16 Year 1 children and three teachers using the three different types of mathematical picture books. A content analysis of the text and images of each book indicated many opportunities for rich mathematics learning. A parallel analysis of teachers' and children's talk during shared reading sessions highlighted the significant role of the teacher and that they did not capitalise on the opportunities for mathematics learning. Students' spontaneous representations revealed their cognitive engagement with the mathematics and confirmed the strong influence of the illustrations. The appendices go into further details of the software tools developed to search for characters on various criteria using regular expressions, build concordances, enter sample sentences and annotate texts. A list of the explanatory keywords selected for the characters is also given. The findings and implications of this research are presented as a thesis by publication with publications embedded within the chapters.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Literature review -- Chapter 3. Theoretical perspectives and methods -- Chapter 4. Phase 1: Development of the classification scheme and framework -- Chapter 5. Phase 1: Evaluation of the classification scheme and framework -- Chapter 6. Phase 2: Authors' views and intentions in writing children's picture books -- Chapter 7. Phase 3: The classroom study - Methods and mathematical content analysis -- Chapter 8. Phase 3: The classroom study - shared book reading sessions -- Chapter 9. Phase 3: The classroom study - student representations -- Chapter 10. Implications for teaching, learning, and the curriculum -- Chapter 11. Conclusion -- Postscript -- References -- Appendices.


Thesis by publication. Bibliography: pages 297-318 of volume 1

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Educational Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Educational Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Joanne Therese Mulligan

Additional Supervisor 1

Marina Marie Papic

Additional Supervisor 2

Michael Cavanagh


Copyright Alan Downes 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (2 volumes) illustrations (some colour)

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