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Cultivating an integrated learning approach to early childhood mathematics: a teacher educator’s self-study.

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To improve my practice as a newly appointed teacher educator at a South African university, I conducted a self-study project focused on exploring an integrated learning approach (ILA) in early childhood mathematics teacher education. I wanted to become a change agent by assisting pre-service teachers in developing a genuine interest in mathematics and seeing it within their reach. I hoped that they would then be inspired to do the same for their prospective learners. My primary research question was: How can I cultivate an integrated learning approach to Early Childhood Mathematics in my teacher education practice? I used four self-study methods to address the research aim: personal history, arts-based explorations, a developmental portfolio, and memory work. I recalled how I learnt mathematics from a young age and my experiences of teaching mathematics to young children and pre-service teachers. I engaged four groups of pre-service teachers to explore an integrated learning approach using arts-based methods to enhance mathematical concepts and pedagogical content knowledge. By embedding my study within a sociocultural perspective, I was motivated to acknowledge my pre-service teachers’ lived experiences and cultural backgrounds to strengthen their mathematical knowledge and pedagogy. Various critical friends helped me gain confidence in myself, and their compassionate critiques enhanced my understanding of my purpose and my ability to work. Having completed this project, I now add my voice to other South African scholars in mathematics integration conversations, especially in early childhood mathematics teacher education. This study also contributes to the hitherto limited body of research conducted by mathematics teacher educators in the early childhood discipline. Moreover, I have brought mathematics and the arts together through hands-on arts-based activities. This manuscript is presented in a colourful, engaging and unique way using collages and metaphors that embody early childhood mathematics practices in teacher education. The thesis itself is an artefact of the integrated approach to mathematics teaching in early childhood and in teacher education.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.