Case Study 3 - Researching the  unknown: Developing an understanding of children’s informal mathematical activity

Tim Jay, Jo Rose

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Over the course of a two-year project, we set out to investigate the mathematics in children’s everyday lives. We recognised the fact that this was a challenging project, and that gaining access to children’s personal lives would take time and some careful research design. A particular challenge centred on the difficulty of ensuring that our participants shared our understanding of ‘mathematics in everyday life’ and were happy and confident in sharing examples with us. In this chapter, we describe the way that we gradually increased the depth of our understanding of children’s experience of mathematics outside of school through a series of studies with groups of primary school children. A structured diary study, and parental survey, allowed us to start a conversation with our participants about the kinds of activities we were interested in. A photo elicitation study then encouraged participants to cross the home-school boundary and share representations of their lives outside of school. These studies enabled us to develop enough of a shared language to carry out small group interviews with children and explore the mathematical thinking and learning in their out-of-school lives. 
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRepositioning Out-of-School Learning: Methodological challenges and possibilities for researching learning beyond school
EditorsJo Rose, Tim Jay, Janet Goodall, Laura Mazzoli Smith, Liz Todd
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022

Publication series

NameEmerald Studies in Out-of-School Learning

Bibliographical note

Edited by Rose, J., Jay, T., Goodall, J., Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L.

Structured keywords

  • SoE Centre for Psychological Approaches for Studying Education


  • mathematics
  • diary study
  • photo elicitation
  • economics
  • economic activity
  • mixed methods


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