Original Research - Special Collection: Mental mathematics and number sense in the early grades

Exploring insights from initial teacher educators’ reflections on the Mental Starters Assessment Project

Rosemary D.L. Brien, Sharon M. Mc Auliffe
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 14, No 1 | a1547 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v14i1.1547 | © 2024 Rosemary D.L. Brien, Sharon M. Mc Auliffe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 February 2024 | Published: 10 June 2024

About the author(s)

Rosemary D.L. Brien, Department of Foundation Phase, Faculty of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Sharon M. Mc Auliffe, Department of Foundation Phase, Faculty of Education, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: The Mental Starters Assessment Project (MSAP) seeks to address poor performance in Grade 3 mathematics. The programme focusses on eliminating inefficient counting methods and promoting strategic mathematical skills, including numerical sense, mental calculation and rapid recall skills. Additionally, MSAP supports teachers’ professional growth by providing them with a toolkit of effective calculation strategies to bridge the performance gap and enhance mathematical education.

Aim: This paper explores the insight gained from reflections of final year Bachelor of Foundation Phase (FP) initial teacher educators (ITE) students in South Africa.

Setting: Grade 3 classrooms.

Methods: The ITE students were given training and materials to implement the MSAP, and this occurred over a 4-week teaching practicum, after which they completed a reflective task on the implementation. A total of 20 students were selected from a cohort of 138 based on their academic performance.

Results: The analysis of the reflections showed that ITE students benefitted from reflecting on their practice and highlighted important elements of their professional learning. The reflections raised issues related to challenges in their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as well as their confidence and competence to teach mathematics and manage the classroom context.

Conclusion: With a multi-dimensional model of reflection, ITE students can achieve a deeper understanding of mathematics teaching and learning when building learners’ mental strategies, fostering professional growth and elevating the overall quality of mathematics education.

Contribution: Overall, the findings provide insight into the benefits of reflective practices for ITE students’ professional development and the improvement of mathematics education.


early grades; initial teacher education; mental mathematics; reflection; South Africa

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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