National Academies Press: OpenBook
« Previous: Front Matter
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Research Council. 2009. Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12519.
Page 1
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Research Council. 2009. Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12519.
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Research Council. 2009. Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12519.
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Research Council. 2009. Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12519.
Page 4

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Summary Mathematics education has risen to the top of the national policy agenda as part of the need to improve the technical and scientific literacy of the American public. The new demands of international competition in the 21st century require a workforce that is competent in and comfort- able with mathematics. There is particular concern about the chronically low mathematics and science performance of economically disadvantaged students and the lack of diversity in the science and technical workforce. Particularly alarming is that such disparities exist in the earliest years of schooling and even before school entry. Recognizing the increasing importance of mathematics and encouraged by a decade of success in improving early literacy, the Mathematical Sci- ences Education Board of the Center for Education at the National Research Council established the Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics. The committee was charged with examining existing research in order to de- velop appropriate mathematics learning objectives for preschool children; providing evidence-based insights related to curriculum, instruction, and teacher education for achieving these learning objectives; and determining the implications of these findings for policy, practice, and future research. The committee found that, although virtually all young children have the capability to learn and become competent in mathematics, for most the potential to learn mathematics in the early years of school is not currently realized. This stems from a lack of opportunities to learn mathematics ei- ther in early childhood settings or through everyday experiences in homes and in communities. This is particularly the case for economically disad- 

 MATHEMATICS LEARNING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD vantaged children, who start out behind in mathematics and will remain so without extensive, high-quality early mathematics instruction. In fact, well before first grade, children can learn the ideas and skills that support later, more complex mathematics understanding. There is ex- pert consensus that two areas of mathematics are particularly important for young children to learn: (1) number, which includes whole number, opera- tions, and relations; and (2) geometry, spatial thinking, and measurement. A rich body of research provides insight into how children’s proficiency develops in both areas and the instruction needed to support it. The com- mittee used this evidence to develop research-based teaching-learning paths to guide policy and practice in early childhood education. Examination of current standards, curricula, and instruction in early childhood education revealed that many early childhood settings do not provide adequate learning experiences in mathematics. The relative lack of high-quality mathematics instruction, especially in comparison to literacy, reflects a lack of attention to mathematics throughout the childhood educa- tion system, including standards, curriculum, instruction, and the prepara- tion and training of the teaching workforce. For example, many widely used early childhood curricula do not pro- vide sufficient guidance on mathematics pedagogy or content. When early childhood classrooms do have mathematics activities, they are often pre- sented as part of an integrated or embedded curriculum, in which the teaching of mathematics is secondary to other learning goals. Emerging research indicates, however, that learning experiences in which mathematics is a supplementary activity rather than the primary focus are less effective in promoting children’s mathematics learning than experiences in which mathematics is the primary goal. Finally, education and training for most teachers typically places heavy emphasis on children’s social-emotional development and literacy, with much less attention to mathematics. In fact, academic activities such as mathematics can be a context in which social-emotional development and the foundations of language and literacy flourish. As noted, opportunities to experience high-quality mathematics in- struction are especially important for low-income children. These children, on average, demonstrate lower levels of competence with mathematics prior to school entry, and the gaps persist or even widen over the course of schooling. Providing young children with extensive, high-quality early mathematics instruction can serve as a sound foundation for later learning in mathematics and contribute to addressing long-term systematic inequities in educational outcomes. The committee found that although the research to date about how young children develop and learn key concepts in mathematics has clear implications for practice, the findings are neither widely known nor imple-

SUMMARY  mented by early childhood educators or those who teach them. To ensure that all children enter elementary school with the mathematical foundation they need for success requires that individuals throughout the early child- hood education system—including the teaching workforce, curriculum de- velopers, program directors, and policy makers—transform their approach to mathematics education in early childhood by supporting, developing, and implementing research-based practices and curricula. RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation 1: A coordinated national early childhood mathemat- ics initiative should be put in place to improve mathematics teaching and learning for all children ages 3 to 6. A number of specific recommendations for action follow from this overarching recommendation. The specific steps and the individuals or or- ganization that must be involved in enacting them are outlined below. We provide further guidance about how to enact these steps in Chapter 9. Recommendation 2: Mathematics experiences in early childhood set- tings should concentrate on (1) number (which includes whole num- ber, operations, and relations) and (2) geometry, spatial relations, and measurement, with more mathematics learning time devoted to number than to other topics. The mathematical process goals should be inte- grated in these content areas. Children should understand the concepts and learn the skills exemplified in the teaching-learning paths described in this report. Recommendation 3: All early childhood programs should provide high-quality mathematics curricula and instruction as described in this report. Recommendation 4: States should develop or revise their early child- hood learning standards or guidelines to reflect the teaching-learning paths described in this report. Recommendation 5: Curriculum developers and publishers should base their materials on the principles and teaching-learning paths described in this report. Recommendation 6: An essential component of a coordinated national early childhood mathematics initiative is the provision of professional development to early childhood in-service teachers that helps them (a)

 MATHEMATICS LEARNING IN EARLY CHILDHOOD to understand the necessary mathematics, the crucial teaching-learning paths, and the principles of intentional teaching and curriculum and (b) to learn how to implement a curriculum. Recommendation 7: Coursework and practicum requirements for early childhood educators should be changed to reflect an increased emphasis on children’s mathematics as described in the report. These changes should also be made and enforced by early childhood organizations that oversee credentialing, accreditation, and recognition of teacher professional development programs. Recommendation 8: Early childhood education partnerships should be formed between family and community programs so that they are equipped to work together in promoting children’s mathematics. Recommendation 9: There is a need for increased informal program- ming, curricular resources, software, and other media that can be used to support young children’s mathematics learning in such settings as homes, community centers, libraries, and museums.

Next: Part I: Introduction and Research on Learning »
Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity Get This Book
Buy Hardback | $59.95 Buy Ebook | $47.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Early childhood mathematics is vitally important for young children's present and future educational success. Research demonstrates that virtually all young children have the capability to learn and become competent in mathematics. Furthermore, young children enjoy their early informal experiences with mathematics. Unfortunately, many children's potential in mathematics is not fully realized, especially those children who are economically disadvantaged. This is due, in part, to a lack of opportunities to learn mathematics in early childhood settings or through everyday experiences in the home and in their communities. Improvements in early childhood mathematics education can provide young children with the foundation for school success.

Relying on a comprehensive review of the research, Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood lays out the critical areas that should be the focus of young children's early mathematics education, explores the extent to which they are currently being incorporated in early childhood settings, and identifies the changes needed to improve the quality of mathematics experiences for young children. This book serves as a call to action to improve the state of early childhood mathematics. It will be especially useful for policy makers and practitioners-those who work directly with children and their families in shaping the policies that affect the education of young children.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook,'s online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!