We originated the term children's
mathematical graphics (see for example,
Worthington & Carruthers 2005,
to describe the range of children's own mathematical signs and
representations (graphicacy). These we identified from the
hundreds of examples we collected and analysed from our teaching in
the birth - 8 year age-range and from examples collected for our
research, from children in their homes, nursery and schools. We
continue to research, write and present our research and to provide
continuing professional development. We are also founders of this
international Children’s Mathematics Network, with members
throughout the UK and around the world.
Young children use a range of visual
representations that may include scribbles, drawings, writing,
iconic marks, invented (personal) symbols and standard symbols. They
use their own mathematical representations to help them think about
and communicate meaning and to explore specific symbols and
calculations: see for example Gallery 1.
Vygotsky referred to written symbols as ‘symbolic’ or ‘cultural
tools’) and mathematics as a subject has been described as ‘really a
matter of problem solving with symbolic tools’ (van Oers, 2001, p.
Since Martin Hughes’s (1986) publication
Children and Number: Difficulties in Learning Mathematics,
there has been a small but growing interest in what has variously
been termed ‘emergent mathematics’ or 'mathematical marks' that we
term children’s mathematical graphics.
Our work on children’s mathematical
graphics grew from our many years' experiences as teachers of young
children and has led to extensive research with children, parents,
teachers and practitioners - in homes, nursery and schools across
the 0 - 8 year age range.