The role of indigenous traditional counting systems in children's development of numerical cognition: results from a study in Papua New Guinea
Matang, RAS & Owens, K 2014, 'The role of indigenous traditional counting systems in children's development of numerical cognition: results from a study in Papua New Guinea', Mathematics Education Research Journal, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 531-553.
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The Government of Papua New Guinea undertook a significant step in developing curriculum reform policy that promoted the use of Indigenous knowledge systems in teaching formal school subjects in any of the country's 800-plus Indigenous languages. The implementation of the Elementary Cultural Mathematics Syllabus is in line with the above curriculum emphasis. Given the aims of the reform, the research reported here investigated the influence of children's own mother tongue (Tok Ples) and traditional counting systems on their development of early number knowledge formally taught in schools. The study involved 272 school children from 22 elementary schools in four provinces. Each child participated in a task-based assessment interview focusing on eight task groups relating to early number knowledge. The results obtained indicate that, on average, children learning their traditional counting systems in their own language spent shorter time and made fewer mistakes in solving each task compared to those taught without Tok Ples (using English and/or the lingua franca, Tok Pisin). Possible reasons accounting for these differences are also discussed.