Original Research

Early numeracy performance of South African school beginners

Pirjo Aunio, Riikka Mononen, Lara Ragpot, Minna Törmänen
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 6, No 1 | a496 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v6i1.496 | © 2016 Pirjo Aunio, Riikka Mononen, Lara Ragpot, Minna Törmänen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 September 2016 | Published: 15 December 2016

About the author(s)

Pirjo Aunio, Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland and Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Riikka Mononen, Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg. South Africa and Department of Special Needs Education, University of Oslo, Norway
Lara Ragpot, Department of Childhood Education, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Minna Törmänen, Department of Behavioural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland


Early numeracy skills are highly relevant for children’s mathematics learning at school, especially in the initial years when much mathematics learning relies on early numeracy competence. The aim of this study was to investigate the level of early numeracy skills in a sample of South African children in the first months of formal schooling. In this cross- sectional study, there were 443 first graders (206 girls and 237 boys) from Gauteng Province schools. The mean age of the children was 81.61 months (6 years 10 months) (SD 5.40 months). Their early numeracy skills were measured with the ThinkMath Scale. The main finding of this study was that there were statistically significant differences in early numeracy skills between the children when they started first grade. The differences were related to the home language of the first graders in the English medium schools, as well as the type of school (public vs. private). This article concludes that the numeracy competence of the children from the sample was notably varied in the beginning of their formal schooling, which has implications for teaching in the vastly different classroom populations that are all served by one national curriculum.


assessment; early numeracy; language of instruction; low performance; mathematical learning difficulties


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