This article draws on data from a three-year Australian Research Council-funded study that examined the ways in which young children become numerate in the twenty-first century. We were interested in the authentic problem-solving contexts that we believe are required to create meaningful learning. This being so, our basic tenet was that such experiences should involve the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) where relevant, but not in tokenistic ways. This article highlights learning conditions in which young children can become numerate in contemporary times. We consider 'academic' or 'school-based' mathematical tasks in the context of a Mathematical Tasks Continuum. This continuum was conceptualised to enable focused and detailed thinking about the scope and range of mathematical tasks that young children are able to engage within contemporary school contexts. The data from this study show that most of the tasks the children experienced in early years mathematics classes were unidimensional in their make up. That is, they focus on the acquisition of specific skills and then they are practiced in disembedded contexts. We suggest that the framework created in the form of the Mathematical Tasks Continuum can facilitate teachers' thinking about the possible ways in which they could extend children's academic work in primary school mathematics, so that the process of becoming numerate becomes more easily related to authentic activities that they are likely to experience in everyday life.
- Mathematical tasks