Collective imagination: The changing conditions for young children as a mathematical problem solvers and explorers

Year: 2021

Author: Li, Liang, Disney, Leigh

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Empirical studies have been undertaken to further understand children’s mathematical learning in play-based settings. Yet, little attention has been directed to the collective imagination in children’s mathematical concept learning. In order to better understand children’s mathematical problem solving actions and how this is supported by the collective imagination between children and teachers, this paper draws upon the Vygotskian concepts of play, imagination and motives to study collective imagination for preschool children’s mathematical learning. The lens is centred on how children are motivated to develop mathematical concepts through collective imagination and achieve personally meaningful learning. The work between teachers and researchers in a focus class from an early learning centre led to the development of an educational experience where children and educators collectively calculated the length of a broom. The visual narrative methodology and reflective interviews have been used to analyse two teachers and a group of 11 preschoolers’ collective imagination in Mathematical PlayWorld while solving the problem of “how long does the broom need to be?” and “Can it fit all our friends?” Within the collective imaginary situation, children, as active explorers, engaged with initial concepts of measurement to solve the problem.Rather than a static view of children’s mathematical learning as a cognitive process of an individual, through exploring the dynamic interactions between teachers and children, this study found that the collective imagination in Mathematical PlayWorld can be created to change the conditions of mathematical learning processes and broaden mathematical exploration. In line with the existing literature, the study specifically reports a new practice, named as a Mathematical PlayWorld, build collective imaginary situations, where children can achieve personally meaningful learning of mathematical concepts and principles. We suggest collective imagination should be promoted to support children’s mathematical learning as it motivates children’s problem-solving processes and actions. By doing so, children are positioned as mathematical problem solvers and explorers. Not reliant on teachers as transmitters of knowledge, rather as co-creators of mathematical scenarios that prepare children to be curious, flexible and collaborative when faced with mathematical problems.