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Children's Mathematics Network

    © Copyright M. Worthington & E. Carruthers 2012

What are ‘children’s mathematical graphics’?
We originated the term children's mathematical graphics (see for example, Worthington & Carruthers 2005, 2006) 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. 63).

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.

The Children's Mathematics network


Practical mathematics

Challenges for children

Emergent Maths?

Official Recommendations


Children's mathematical graphics draw on children's imagination and creativity (their meaning-making) to support their mathematical thinking with symbols. In terms of resources they require only blank paper and pens or pencils. Please note: published schemes and adult-prepared materials do not support this approach.

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