This paper characterizes early mathematics instruction in Hong Kong. The teaching of addition in three pre-primary and three lower primary schools was observed and nine teachers were interviewed about their beliefs about early mathematics teaching. A child-centered, play-based approach was evident but teachers emphasized discipline, diligence and academic success. Observations also revealed practices reflective of both constructivist and instructivist pedagogies. Results from interviews suggest that teachers’ traditional cultural beliefs about instruction were challenged by western ideologies introduced in continuing professional development courses and by notions promulgated by the educational reforms. Both consistencies and inconsistencies between teachers’ beliefs and practices were identified. Implications of the findings are discussed.
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