More than ‘more’: quantity and quality of mathematical language used by educators in mealtimes with infants

Kelly Johnston*, Sheila Degotardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Research indicates that the early years are a pivotal time for developing foundational mathematical knowledge, and that early experiences with mathematics have a lasting impact on later numeracy skills and academic achievement. However, the importance of early mathematical thinking and learning is often undervalued or overlooked in early childhood education and care contexts. This paper presents findings on the use of mathematical language in mealtime conversations with children under the age of two. Mealtime conversations between 26 educators and the infants they worked with were recorded, transcribed, and examined for both quantity and diversity of language that include reference to mathematical concepts. The study found that incidental use of mathematical language was related to the amount and diversity of educators’ talk, although patterns of relationships varied depending on the type of mathematical talk under investigation. These findings highlight the potential value of working with educators both to recognise that mathematical thinking occurs in everyday and routine experiences with infants and to become more intentional in supporting and extending this learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)796-812
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
Issue number4
Early online date26 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • early childhood
  • early mathematics
  • mathematical language


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