02 September 2009

Numbers Matter: How To Help Young Children Learn The Foundational Math Skills They Need For Kindergarten Success

This summer, the Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics of the National Research Council issued a report entitled "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity" (Cross et al., 2009). The report details the importance of incorporating early math skills in the pre-school curriculum and provides information for parents and teachers to use in making sure that children are mathematically ready for school. Most parents know that learning to count and recognize basic shapes are important skills that will help their preschooler get ready for kindergarten. However, the report recommends that parents and pre-school teachers help children master more than these basic skills . Specifically, young children need to learn, “concepts of number, space, passing of time, (and) volume” (Chute, August 30, 2009, 1). Understanding these mathematical concepts at an early age helps children connect mathematical ideas to the physical world. This knowledge – in turn – provides preschoolers with a solid foundation on which to build a more complex mathematical understanding later in life.

Helping young children get ready for math does not have to be difficult. In fact, many pre-math skills are best learned through play. As children explore the world around them, they naturally make observations about numbers, space, time, and shapes and sizes. These are all key pre-math concepts. Parents and caregivers can enrich this exploration by helping children understand and interpret what they are observing. The most important thing is that children need to understand math concepts through their experiences of the tangible world and not as abstractions. The evidence is clear: even very young children benefit from an early introduction to key math concepts.


Chute, Eleanor. (August 30, 2009). “Back to School/Do the Math: Latest 'new math' concept: Start early and make it fun,” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Accessed August 31, 2009. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09242/994281-298.stm#ixzz0PnO4uPu4

Cross, Christopher T., Taniesha A. Woods, Heidi Schweingruber, Eds. (2009). Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. Washington D.C.: The National Academies Press. < http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12519 >

Duncan, Greg J. et al. (November 2007). School Readiness and Later Achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 6: 1428 – 1446. http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/dev4361428.pdf

Parlakian, Rebecca. (n.d.) Growing Up Healthy: What Local Governments Can Do to Support Young Children and Their Families. Washington D.C.: Zero to Three. Accessed August 31, 2009. < http://www.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/GrowUpHealthy.pdf?docid="1722">

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