This thesis is an exploration of how oral story can be used as a pedagogical tool by educators in a state infant school, to encourage children’s mathematical thinking. Two research questions are framed as follows: In using oral story as a pedagogical approach for mathematical thinking, what characterises the nature of the interaction between teachers and children and the role of children as mathematical storytellers? How can such narratives be documented? It starts by identifying the Vygotskian principles of instruction that are of importance to the practice of teaching young children. Data are generated by means of interviews, discussions, classroom observations and written reflections, which progressively focus the study. In particular, the way in which oral story allows playful conjecturing about mathematical possibilities using the question ‘what if?’ is examined. The practice of two reception class teachers is analysed and differences are shown between their mathematical epistemologies and implementation of the early years curriculum, using oral story as a teaching strategy. The contribution to knowledge made by the thesis is represented by several features. First, it lies in the detail of the exploration of the interaction between teachers and children, illuminating innovative ideas about the nature of such interaction in the context of using oral story as a pedagogical tool with whole classes and smaller groups of young children. Though oral story has been examined in previous studies, these tend to have relied on retelling a story with mathematical themes rather than constructing a story with children which allows new connections to be made. Second, the study’s findings relate specifically to children taking the role as mathematical storytellers and again, though complementing other studies, it extends our understanding of the way in which storytelling allows children to experience mathematical thinking. Third, in addition to new knowledge in the field of early years mathematics, it develops a novel way of documenting children’s mathematical narrative, making use of video of children’s storytelling to stimulate reflection on this by children, teachers and parents.

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