Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Rachel Inselberg

Second Advisor

Dr. Karla Holloway

Third Advisor

Dr. Uldis Smidchens

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Mary Cain


When used in mathematics instruction, quantity-comparative language has specific meaning which may be confusing or unfamiliar to young children. Because of the importance of language to the development and measurement of understanding of math concepts, the purpose of this study was to examine the abilities of young children to produce and to understand quantity-comparative descriptions.

Ninety-seven five-year-olds, selected by a stratified random sampling of children in early childhood facilities, were interviewed individually. Each interview consisted of an introductory activity, a productive language assessment (to elicit, in the subject's own language, descriptions of quantity comparisons), and a responsive language assessment (to examine the subject's ability to respond correctly to conventional quantity-comparative terms).

The results indicated that many children do have the ability to describe quantity comparisons and to respond correctly to the conventional terms that were assessed. However, the children appeared to have varying levels of facility in producing, and responding to, quantity-comparative language. The degree of math-specificity of the term and the direction of the comparison (larger, smaller, or equal amounts) appeared to be influencing factors. It was found that many children were unable to respond correctly to certain conventional terms even though they were able to describe the same comparisons in their own language.

Analysis of the assessment scores indicated a positive correlation between the productive language and the responsive language abilities of the children. No significant difference could be shown between girls and boys in either their productive or their responsive language abilities, nor could a difference be shown in the productive language abilities of Black and Caucasian children. However, Caucasian children scored significantly higher in the responsive language assessment. It was also found that children of more highly-educated mothers had significantly higher scores in both productive and responsive language.

An examination of the quantity-comparative vocabulary of typical kindergarten mathematics programs revealed a wide variation in the vocabulary and the level at which terms were introduced. A comparison of the textbook vocabularies with the actual language abilities of the children in this study suggested the need for greater emphasis on the language implications of math instruction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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Education Commons