Gesture in a kindergarten mathematics classroom
SourceEuropean Early Childhood Education Research Journal
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Recent studies have advocated that mathematical meaning is mediated by gestures. This case study explores the gestures kindergarten children produce when learning spatial concepts in a mathematics classroom setting. Based on a video study of a mathematical lesson in a kindergarten class, we concentrated on the verbal and non-verbal behavior of one kindergartner who produced a great amount of gestures during instruction. The microgenetic approach was used for the analysis of the data. The results showed that the kindergartner used gestures throughout the whole instruction. For all the spatial concepts that were addressed (‘in’ and ‘out’, ‘on’ and ‘under’, ‘up’ and ‘down’), he produced mainly deictic gestures referring either to existing or virtual objects. The child was found to produce different types of gestures in different spatial contexts. Our analysis revealed the occurrence of a gesture–speech match and a gesture–speech mismatch. In the latter case, the child's gestures were found to complement and enrich his verbal utterances. The child's gestures along with his speech acted as semiotic means of objectification of specific spatial relations that were rather abstract for the child and were not represented adequately by speech. Besides the phenomenon of the coordination between oral speech and gesture, enacted by the child himself, evidence was found for the coordination between the two semiotic systems activated by different people, that is, the child under study and the other children or the teacher of the class. Furthermore, the teacher's gestures were found to influence the child's gestures in different ways. These findings are discussed and suggestions for further research on the role of gestures in the development of spatial thinking in the early years are drawn.