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Picture Books as an Impetus for Kindergartners' Mathematical Thinking

by Marga van den Heuvel-Panhuizen & Sylvia van den Boogaard

The authors set out to prove that picture books inherently teach mathematics to children
simply through the illustrations. The study was done by the authors. They went to a school and
asked a teacher to choose four students who were of "average intelligence" from the five year
old kindergarten classroom. This was their second year at school. The team member took the
student from the classroom. The team member showed the child the book. The child described
the illustrations on a page, then the corresponding text was read to the students. The authors
verified that the book was not known to the students before the reading began. The reader turned
the pages and did not interact with the children other than reading the words. The student
sessions were videotaped.
The authors used the constant comparative method to collect data. Using the video
recordings and transcripts, they made a list of "utterances" from what the students had
commented on. The lists were compiled and categorized. The lists were then examined and the
children's responses were compared.
According to the authors the results showed evidence of mathematical learning from the
picture book. The results can be interpreted another way though because of the five areas the
authors said made their study incomplete: they only used one picture book, too few children were
used, they did not collect any information on student prior mathematical knowledge, and how
would the study have changed if the reader had interacted with the children instead of only

The authors were surprised that the children who had immigrated did well in the study.
They stated that previous thought was that immigrant children do not benefit from picture books
the same as native born citizens because of a language problem.
The research did not seem scientific. There were the five variables that the researchers
mentioned that could have easily altered the results. The results were solely based on comments
the children made without interaction from the adult. The interaction would have been a way to
understand the children's mathematical comprehension more so than just listing their
"utterances". This was an initial research experiment that did not answer any questions.
The study would have benefited from examining the pictures with the children to
discover if they were aware of mathematical concepts. These could include did they see patterns,
did they attempt to count, did they see "more" or "less.
In my opinion, this study showed that children will engage in picture books and learn
from the images. My biggest issue with the study was that it did not take into account the
previous knowledge of the students and how such previous knowledge would have affected the

"Ah, I know why...": Children Developing Understanding through Engaging with a Picture
by Christine Braid and Brian Finch
The purpose of this study was to discover the effect illustrations in picture books have on
a child's learning. The article spoke about the importance of literature in life and stated that
illustrations in picture books had not been studied with frequency. The goal was to examine a
theoretical model created by Lawrence Sipe. Sipe's study centered on the importance of picture
book illustrations in developing within a child necessary understandings.
The study involved twenty-five students. The students were all nine or ten years old.
They were divided into five groups of five. They were removed from their classroom and the
researcher acted as reader and to facilitate instruction. The researchers recorded and analyzed the
date based on Sipe's categories. Using the first group as the control group, the framework was
modified to work with the chosen book and chosen participants.
The researchers analyzed the responses based on how the students responded. The five
different levels of thinking include describing, evaluating, speculating, making inferences,
predicting and providing alternating suggestions, as well as making meaning from the text. From
the data, the researchers concluded that the students were actively engaged in their learning
experience. The reader acted as a facilitator by drawing the conversation out of the students, not
by leading the discussions as an instructor. The normal conversations that revolved around the
illustrations and text was evidence of how naturally children can engage in their learning
through illustrations. The children showed how they used the illustrations to understand the text.
The research in this study was interactive with the students. The student group was a
large group, possibly an entire class. By using a large sample group, the researchers showed that

the evidence is based on a range of children, not just a homogenous student grouping. The
facilitator encouraged the students to respond and reply to each other furthering the development
of the conversations. The study showed that students were responsive to the illustrations in the
picture books, to me this means that the illustrations are an important part of the learning
experience in literature and in the classroom. When using picture books, it is imperative that we
analyze the illustrations, understand the illustrations and use the text and illustrations together to
interpret meaning and understanding from picture books.

Children's Observations about the Art in Picture Books

by John Warren Stewig
The purpose of this study was to understand how children develop visual literacy in a
classroom setting. The author selected a second and fourth grade at a non-denominational private
school. There were a total of 37 students, 17 second graders and 20 fourth graders. The research
involved the students listening to and examining four books on Noah's Ark, each with a different
illustrator. A single book was viewed each day, and on the fifth day, the students wrote about
their favorite book.
The students chose which book to read for the day. The children described what they saw
in the artwork. They first looked at the cover illustrations. They examined these illustrations
closely in order to make predictions about the story and they discussed the artwork. The
researcher asked questions of the students to further the discussions of the illustrations. The two
groups of students selected the books in the same order. It could have added to the research if
the author had stated how the books were initially presented to the students for choosing. Did a
student peruse the books and choose one or did he require the students to judge the books solely
by their covers.
The author found that the children were engaged in the task of discussing the visuals. The
students spoke mostly of the story that they saw in the pictures. They did respond to questions
regarding the actual artwork of the illustrations. Some students continued to elaborate on the
artwork. On the final day, the students wrote about their favorite book. The author seemed
disappointed that the students did not elaborate on their writings as thoroughly as they did on the
discussions during the four previous sessions.

The author chose to focus his thoughts and conclusion on the students reaction to the
artwork. The study should have included "why" the students chose each book. It would have
been interesting to know after each book was read, how did the illustrations effect the telling of
the story. Did the meaning of the text change from one book to the next even though it was the
same story?

The three studies all showed a positive effect of visual literacy in the illustrations of
picture books. The illustrations are an important aspect of learning. The difficulties of the studies
were in measuring the data. The only measurements the researchers used were the types of
responses the students gave and how in depth they discussed the aspects of the illustrations. The
overall studies showed positive results towards the effectiveness of illustrations, however, as
some stated, more research needs to be done in this area.

Braid, C., & Finch, B. (2015). 'Ah, I know why': Children developing
understandings through engaging with a picture book. Literacy, 49(3), 115-122.
Stewig, J. W. (1995). Children's Observations about the Art in Picture Books.
van den Heuvel-Panhuizen, M., & van den Boogaard, S. (2008). Picture Books
as an Impetus for Kindergartners' Mathematical Thinking. Mathematical Thinking
And Learning: An International Journal, 10(4), 341-373.