Learning in Multiple Worlds: An Examination of the Intersection of Home and School Mathematics Practices

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Publication Date
April 2003


This paper reports on the outcomes of a one-year pilot study of young children’s experiences with numeracy/mathematics activities both in school and with their families. The aim of the study is to learn about the knowledge and skills which children learn at home which may provide positive but potentially unrecognized contributions to children’s learning in school, and to examine the extent to which numeracy learning from home and school are integrated in the classroom setting. Ultimately, the full project aims to contribute to an understanding of mathematics underachievement in urban children, so that schools can address this problem more effectively. In carrying out this pilot study, researchers observed a Head Start classroom in an elementary school in North Philadelphia and developed detailed case studies of four children from the class. The case study children were observed both in the classroom and ‘at home.’ (In order to meet families’ needs for flexibility, ‘home’ was defined to include a range of places where the children spent time with family members.) The article presents a vignette drawn from one of the case studies, which shows the child involved in numeracy-related activities both at school and at home. This vignette provides an example of one child who had developed numeracy skills through his home activities (e.g., game-playing, counting), but whose abilities were not recognized in the more formal school setting, with its emphasis on following rules and learning skills in an anticipated sequence. The authors report that their work has received an enthusiastic response from a number of audiences to whom the findings have been presented, including teachers and principal from the focal school, other Philadelphia School District teachers and central office staff, and individuals who teach math education at the university level. These presentations and resultant discussions have demonstrated that the vignettes can be useful as a tool for professional development.


  • Eva Gold
  • Rhonda Mordecai-Phillips