Early Mathematical Learning:
: Easy as 1, 2, 3?

  • Abigail Cahoon

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In Northern Ireland, more than 1 in 6 children do not achieve the expected standard in numeracy by the end of primary school (Northern Ireland Audit Office, 2013). However, early mathematical achievement is predictive of later educational achievement, employment and future life chances (Williams, 2003). Therefore, understanding what influences the learning and development of early mathematical skills should be of utmost importance for governments, policy makers, educational practitioners and researchers. This research aimed to explore the individual differences and potential factors that contribute to early mathematical achievement.

This thesis adopted a qualitative (Chapter 3), mixed methods (Chapter 4 and 5) and quantitative (Chapter 6) approach to understand the factors that may influence a child’s mathematical learning and development. At school-entry children vary in their numeracy skills suggesting that the home environment may influence a child’s learning and development. Semi-structured interviews with parents, of pre-school aged children, were used to investigate child interactions and specific parental views and experiences in relation to mathematical practices at home. Thematic analysis was used to explore behaviour relevant to the home numeracy environment. Based on these views a questionnaire that measures the different aspects of the home numeracy environment was developed and validated to reach three main levels of psychometric soundness; construct, content and criterion validity. This new home numeracy environment measure was then used in a longitudinal study which aimed to understand how children develop mathematical skills over time. A latent transition analysis was used to describe children’s precise learner profiles and learning pathways during this transition from pre-school to school education and the key predictors of children’s pathway membership over time were identified. Findings demonstrate that there is no one factor solely driving mathematical development over time but a range of factors that should be considered by educational practitioners and researchers to further children’s mathematical development.
Date of AwardMay 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorVictoria Simms (Supervisor) & Tony Cassidy (Supervisor)


  • Home Learning Environment
  • Numeracy
  • Mathematical Cognition
  • Latent Transition Analysis

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