Early Mathematics Makes a Difference

Hello and welcome to my blog on early mathematics! I am very excited to share my “Aha” moments with you this year as I read, learn, and see firsthand how young children come to know math.

Why am I so passionate about early mathematics? I have been an educator for 27 years with 20 of those years focused on school readiness. As an administrator, I was committed to supporting teachers to provide a developmentally appropriate program that will prepare the child for kindergarten and beyond. Most importantly, I strongly believe that learning should be done through intentional play and engaging activities. I found this to be a balancing act for teachers as they were having to implement lesson plans, assess the children to meet program requirements, and to meet the daily ongoing needs of 3-5 year olds and their families.aileens-children_5

After years of overseeing programs and being on the implementation side of early learning programs and a total of 25 years in the state education system, I was fortunate to join the team at the AIMS Center for Math and Science Education. Now in my second year as a research associate, I am taking the time to understand the existing research on how children “come to know” their mathematical knowledge and how it impacts their future academic performance.

In 2008, our former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, Larry L. Powell stated that “children who start behind, stay behind” and that preschool would help close the achievement gap. Across the nation, early learning programs rightfully focused on early literacy skills and social emotional skills. Here’s my AHA moment that occurred just last year and why I am so passionate to share with the early learning community: early mathematics matters.

In 2007, Dr. Greg Duncan noted that school-entry math knowledge is TWICE as likely as school-entry reading knowledge to indicate K-8 math AND reading success. As a follow-up study in 2011, Dr. Duncan noted the K-5 MATH achievement is the most powerful predictor of future educational attainment, inclusive of high school completion and college attendance.

Early mathematics addresses the equity gap so we would think that early learning programs would focus on intentional early mathematics concepts. This would include discussing the concepts of larger or smaller, longer or shorter, counting a collection, and asking how many and discovering the answer together in informal conversation that builds on the child’s knowledge. So, how much time is spent on intentional math experiences?

    More than 50%?         No.

    More than 25%?         Unfortunately, no.

    Surely, more than 10%?     No, again.

    It must be more than 5%    No, it isn’t.

Wow, so what is the amount if it isn’t even 5%? In a study by Vanderbilt University researchers Farran, Fuhs and Turner, it is 2.5%. Yes, only 2.5% is the percentage of the preschool day spent on intentional math experiences. Just even an increase to 4% has been shown to increase the child’s learning trajectory.

Follow my blog for more “Aha” moments and remember to do the math!

10 Responses to Early Mathematics Makes a Difference

  1. Thank you Wilma, through your experiences I have been introduced to new concepts and ways of thinking. The work you are all doing is so important, I can’t wait to hear and learn more!

  2. Hi Lori!
    I agree and I believe that as a community we need to empower and educate each other that brain development begins in utero and 700 brain synapses are created each second before the age of five. Math experiences and opportunities makes a difference and it begins with conversations with the baby.

  3. Anxious to follow your blog. Anytime you want to stretch to Kings and Tuulare Counties I still teach at COS. I also am in practice at Bonnie Ness & Associates at First and Bullard. We have a beautiful play room for child play therapy. Reaching children through their work!

  4. What a wonderful important blog Wilma! You hit every point right on, as an early childhood educator enough cannot be said about the importance of intentional planning and teaching in every developmental area! I have noticed in my preschool classroom that by incorporating early mathematics in developmentally appropriate ways (just like you noted, hands-on intentional noticing and teaching) the preschoolers learn to question, notice, predict, talk, and think! When I work with new teachers and practicum students they begin to understand the importance of scaffolding young children’s thinking skills because they can observe the learning first hand! Every classroom should have a “math area” that should be intentionally planned everyday!! I am looking forward to your future Aha Blogs!!

    • Hi Laurie!
      It was great hearing from you! Not only should there be a math area but I believe math concepts may be introduced through a variety of activities during transition time, outside time, etc.
      Early math skills are developed through their senses by way of an engaging conversation or activity.
      Thanks for following our EMT blogs. There are four of us and will post each Monday.

  5. Wilma, I’m looking forward to following your blog. I too am passionate about the learning of mathematics in the early learning years. As a grandma to be, I am eager to see how my grandson will construct his understanding of mathematical concepts in his world. – Liz

  6. Thanks Wilma! As I tell my student’s parents, it’s the first five years that are crucial in a child’s development, and they are their first teacher. We’ve got to empower and educate parents.

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