Jenny Dwyer

Proposed Title

Children’s mathematical graphics in play


The future of early childhood mathematics and its inclusion in young children’s play has become an important educative discussion. In recent years, this attention has begun to recognise young children’s capabilities to draw symbols which might be described as “mathematical” within their play. Increasingly, these marks are being acknowledged as children’s “mathematical graphics”, where previously they may have been overlooked as scribbles or seen as early forms of drawings. Recognising and valuing children’s mathematical graphics as a starting point for symbol use in mathematics and other related subjects such as engineering, science, technology and economics is important for 21st learning. This research project aims to illustrate children’s mathematical graphics to highlight the connectedness between mathematical graphics, abstract thinking and symbolism as evidenced in children’s play encounters. It will reveal how socio- cultural factors influence and shape mathematical graphics and their mathematical meanings. Using a cultural historical methodology, this study will research 3-5 year old children from two early childhood settings to illustrate the diverse ways of mathematical thinking as represented through their mathematical graphics. The research study will present the findings in the form of vignettes with written observations, scans and photographic evidence of the children’s mathematical graphics. The interpretative culturally recursive analysis will reveal both the function and the meaning that the mathematical graphic serves in children’s play, and the socio-cultural influences that help shape these important marks. It is expected that the results of this study will bring attention to these largely unrecognised and undervalued marks as holding mathematical significance and being a powerful indicator of children’s emerging use of symbols required in mathematical learning.

Why I chose Charles Sturt?

I have been employed at Charles Sturt University since 2009, on both a part-time and full-time basis. For many years I have wanted to complete my doctorate, especially in the area of children’s play, learning and symbol making. I received this wonderful opportunity in 2020.

Engagement and memberships

I am a member of the following groups:
Early Childhood Research Group – School of Education - Charles Sturt
Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Research Group (STEM)- School of Education - Charles Sturt

Current candidate profiles