The development of the number concept in Grade R: a case study of a school in the Wellington area
Systemic evaluation undertaken by the Department of Basic Education as part of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2006 – 2016 posed a serious challenge in South African schools. The numeracy and mathematics results in 2009 stated that 35% of learners in Grade 3 achieved the required level of competence in Mathematics. This has, however, improved to 48.3% in 2010 but dropped to 47.6% in 2011. The development of early number concept in countries such as the Netherlands, Singapore and Helsinki has shown that early intervention is essential for reaching mathematical success in schooling. The Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) integrates the three learning programmes: Literacy, Numeracy and Life Skills for Grade R into a daily programme of activities. Within this daily programme it specifies that 35% of each day must be used towards Numeracy. The Grade R method of teaching emphasizes the fact that teaching must take place informally but planned formally. The purpose of this study is to examine how early mathematics is taught in an integrated and informal setting to improve number concept. The theoretical framework underpinning this study is based on the constructivist views of Piaget and Vygotsky and how these theories lay the foundation for the development of number concept in Grade R. Number skills to develop number concept were identified in nine lessons to underpin the content area 1, Numbers, Operations and Relationships as determined by the Grade R Mathematics Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS). The methodology employed to answer the research question were video-recordings, observations and interviews. The findings identified number skills such as emergent number concepts: distinguishing numerosity, imitating resultative counting and symbolizing by using fingers as well as growing number concepts: discovering different meanings of numbers, oral counting, one- to- one correspondence, rote counting, perceptual subitising, resultative counting, representing and symbolizing numbers, ordinality, place value, emergent object-based counting and calculating and golden moments. The discussion of the findings focused on the CAPS content area and how these number skills were used to achieve the demands of the content area 1. The major findings of this study presented a case of the utilization of number skills to achieve the development of number concept in Grade R, how mathematics should be made fun, and how incidental learning, “golden moments” can be used to introduce key mathematical concepts informally. This study has implications for teachers of Grade R and for the training of pre-service Grade R teachers at tertiary level.