Original Research

South African research in mathematical cognition and language in childhood: Towards an expanded theoretical framework

Elizabeth Henning
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 3, No 2 | a41 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v3i2.41 | © 2013 Elizabeth Henning | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 May 2014 | Published: 30 December 2013

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Elizabeth Henning, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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The article proposes that cognitive developmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience theory need to feature more prominently in the theoretical frameworks for South African research on language in mathematics learning in the early years of school. I argue that, considering the state of mathematics learning in the foundation phase and the conundrum around the language of learning and teaching debate in the country, we need more integrated theoretical work for equally integrated analyses of learners and learning, moving beyond the practice of drawing from mostly single theories, such as bilingual education theory, or sociocultural theory. The article explains the reasoning behind the proposition for an expansion of the theoretical work in this field, claiming that policy decisions about language of learning and teaching depend on empirical research that includes theories from the cognitive sciences as framework.


theoretical framework; mathematics education research; language and conceptual development; mathematical cognition; conceptual development; South African education; language in mathematics learning; educational neuroscience


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1. Pre-school children’s bridge to symbolic knowledge: first literature framework for a learning and cognition lab at a South African university
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South African Journal of Psychology  vol: 45  issue: 1  first page: 71  year: 2015  
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