Providing Math Opportunities
Benefits of Early Math Activities
While many recognize and stress the importance of early language and literacy skills for future achievement, there is growing recognition of the importance of early math learning experiences for young children. In a well-known study by Duncan et al., 2007, researchers examined multiple indicators of school achievement across six different large national data sets and found that children’s early math knowledge was the strongest predictor of later elementary school achievement. Math skills also predicted later reading achievement as well as early reading skills!
There is also evidence suggesting the early math skills and executive functioning skills (like attention, working memory, and inhibitory control) may be closely linked. Click here for information about an ongoing project investigating the link between math and executive functioning.
In PRI’s work with the Nashville ELC classrooms, children who participated more often in math activities had stronger math gains. This difference is even more pronounced for children who entered Pre-K with weaker initial math skills.
Meaningful Math Activities in Pre-K …
- Are “sequential” in nature – a series of steps; require children to plan
- Encourage associative and cooperative learning among children – requiring them to work together to accomplish a task
- Can involve cognitively demanding instruction, such as discussing mathematics concepts with very young children, which requires that we probe their understanding by asking highly inferential questions and waiting attentively for their responses
- Are open-ended
- Do not have a pre-determined answer
- Require children to use reasoning
Supporting Young Children’s Math Concept Development
Math instruction is often highly structured, and may consist primarily of rote counting, numeral recognition, and fact memorization. However, the Pre-K classroom offers the opportunity to take advantage of children’s curiosity about the world around them to develop mathematical concepts and understanding.
This involves the following steps:
- Making Time for Math
- Recognizing the Opportunity for Math
- Understanding Key Mathematics Concepts for Early Childhood
- Utilizing Manipulatives and Hands-On Activities to Explore and Extend Child’s Math Thinking
Click here for a PowerPoint presentation that gives more detail on these steps, as well as strategies and ideas for implementing more mathematics activities in the classroom.
Remember teachers will foster children’s mathematical thinking if they follow and encourage children’s natural curiosity about the world around them. Look for playful ways to incorporate math into the classroom – and don’t forget the FUN!