Original Research

Children’s development of an understanding of number: A model for Grade R teachers

Lerato B. Ndabezitha
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 12, No 1 | a1195 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v12i1.1195 | © 2022 Lerato B. Ndabezitha | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 February 2022 | Published: 28 July 2022

About the author(s)

Lerato B. Ndabezitha, Department of Childhood Education, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Teachers teach mathematics by focusing on procedural knowledge (what steps to follow when doing mathematics) and pay scant attention to the conceptual understanding that underlies these procedures such as double-digit addition or subtraction and overall additive and multiplicative relations. They teach concepts in a haphazard way instead of looking at them from a convergent perspective of concepts that a child builds, one after the other.

Aim: This study explores what Grade R teachers know about young children’s specific developmental numerical cognition and if they infuse their understanding of number concept development in their pedagogy.

Setting: Samples of 15 female Grade R teachers were purposefully selected from five schools in what was previously a racially segregated living area in South Africa.

Methods: This research design is a descriptive case study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and observation notes documented during workshops and when the teachers implemented their learnings in their classrooms.

Results: The main finding was that although teachers could reflect on the model of number concept development they had learned, they found it hard to infuse their knowledge into a strictly structured curriculum.

Conclusion: Despite the Meerkat Maths programme offered to the teachers, they could not rely on their intuitive pedagogy, coupled with the model of number concept development that they had learned because of the strict demands of the school curriculum content with which they had to comply.


Grade R; number concept development; pedagogical content knowledge; numerical cognition; mathematics; teacher knowledge


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Crossref Citations

1. Developing design principles to enhance pre-service teachers’ understanding of number structure and mathematical equivalence in early grade mathematics
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African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education  vol: 27  issue: 3  first page: 239  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1080/18117295.2023.2216608