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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: August 2019

Chapter 9 - Content knowledge: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)



This chapter is intended to help you learn:

  • • that conceptual development of infants and toddlers must be planned for and that key concepts are found in most early childhood curricula
  • • that concepts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are important for infants and young children to learn
  • • that everyday concepts and scientific concepts must both be supported in the early childhood learning environment
  • • how the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) and Te Whāriki link to concepts and process of STEM
  • In this chapter the theory and practice of Vygotsky's (1987b) work on concept formation will be introduced. This work is important for framing approaches to building content knowledge in mathematics and science in the context of the environment. This is an important part of the early childhood curriculum that can sometimes get lost in play-based approaches. In this chapter, a model for understanding how concept formation occurs in relation to children's everyday experiences of the world and their acquisition of formal knowledge will be examined. The model is explained using examples from practice that show how children and teachers can work together to build conceptual knowledge within play-based approaches to curriculum.

    concept formation when a child concurrently draws upon everyday concepts and scientific concepts for higher mental functioning. The child develops understandings of the concept only when both everyday and scientific concepts are known to the learner.

    Mathematical concept formation within everyday practice

    It is 10.00 am and Jacinta and her teacher are wiping the tables in preparation for morning tea. Jacinta's teacher has recently attended a workshop on curriculum planning and has brought back a series of cards that give suggestions for using everyday practices to promote mathematics education in young children. As the teacher wipes the table she recalls the dialogue on the back of the cards (see Figures 9.1 and 9.2) and has the following conversation with Jacinta:

    Teacher: Jacinta, see if you can move the cloth all the way to the edge of the table.

    Jacinta: Like this [moving the cloth across the table surface, running her hand along the edge].

    Teacher: Yes, that's it. We are wiping the whole area of the table – right to the edge.

    Jacinta: I have got every spot, haven't I?