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Numerosities in the Picture: Picture Book Features and Their Contribution to Numeracy Instruction, Performance, and Development

Early numeracy, and particularly subitizing and cardinality principle (CP) mastery, is pivotal for children’s further mathematical development. The acquisition of numeracy abilities can be supported via picture books. Studies in the language and literacy domain point to the contribution of picture book features to their effectiveness. Research on picture book features and the contribution of these features to mathematics instruction and numeracy performance and development remains limited. We aimed to investigate (1) the mathematical visual and textual features of picture books, (2) the contribution of these features to preschool teachers’ instruction (i.e., picture book selection), (3) their impact on children’s subitizing performance, and (4) their contribution to CP development. In Study 1, we analyzed the general and mathematical visual and textual features in mathematical and non-mathematical picture books. The results indicated a large variety of mathematical features across picture books, with features related to basic numeracy content and complex visualization of this content being the most prevalent. Non-mathematical picture books included little explicit mathematical content. In Study 2, we examined teachers’ selection of picture books for mathematics instruction, focusing on the features they deemed important and the association with teachers’ beliefs and children’s age. Teachers prioritized general features, followed by features related to basic mathematical content. Visual features and features related to more complex content were rated as least important. Teachers’ beliefs had a limited impact on picture book selection. Teachers of older children showed a greater preference for more complex mathematical content. In Study 3, we examined the contribution of visual features to 3-4-year-olds’ subitizing performance. Pictures with distractors, heterogeneous, randomly arranged, or overlapping objects resulted in lower performance compared to pictures without distractors, homogeneous, linearly arranged, or distinct objects, respectively. In Study 4, we analyzed the effectiveness of different types of instructional text for supporting 3-4-year-olds’ CP development and its interplay with child characteristics. Instructional text including first labeling and next counting was most effective in supporting CP development from pretest to posttest, but this effect did not persist at the retention test. Our analyses pointed to a complex interplay between children’s counting and subitizing skills and the type of instructional text. We conclude that visual and textual picture book features contribute to children’s numeracy performance and development. Hence, they require further study and should be considered in educational practice.

Date:1 Oct 2020 →  Today
Keywords:mathematical development, picture books, preschooler, picture book features, preschool education, cardinality principle, numeracy development, subitizing
Disciplines:Mathematics and numeracy curriculum and pedagogics, Primary education, Preschool education and kindergarten
Project type:PhD project