As I travel the country doing early childhood workshops, I am always very concerned with math instruction. Of course there is a new resurgence of math concentration with the attention given to STEM and STEAM schools. Each organization has it’s own set of mathematics standards. My one large criticism is that sometimes the language used in standards is so academic that I fear many classroom teachers fail to absorb the full impact of the standard. I’m not suggesting we dummy things down, but just make sure that we use language that is usable to the early childhood teacher. I also worry that standards are not often listed in the order that you should introduce them to a child.
Through all of the language of mathematics standards, I think the simplicity of developmentally appropriate math strategies gets lost. I watch many teachers instruct students in a math standard before the child has a solid foundation with which to understand and incorporate that skill. A solid foundation will provide a solid basis for the scaffold of math the child should develop. A good foundation will last throughout time. I recently found the foundation of a dock on the coast of Kauai, where they used to load pineapples. The farming and production ceased long ago, but the foundation of the dock has lasted through time. A math foundation for a child should be just as solid.
I have found that the following developmental steps provide a solid foundation for future math skills:
- Spatial Relationships
- One to one correspondence
- Place value
Each one of the skills listed provides a solid foundation for the skills that comes next. For more information, check out the book, Count on Math by Dr. Pam Schiller or download my conference handout about math on the right side of this blog.
I was traveling on an airplane this week and I had the privilege of sitting next to a mechanical engineer. He was traveling for work on his latest project, a new medical device for heart patients. I was fascinated by the new procedures he was explaining, but he seemed just as fascinated with my early childhood knowledge. He has two small children and admitted that he and his wife don’t always know the best approach for teaching their little ones. Our conversation evolved to a discussion about building capacities in the brain. I told him how critical it was to give young children as many experiences and support as possible so they can build as many brain connections as possible (check out Dr. Jean’s information). We know that the connections formed during early childhood will have life long effects. We discussed how his new device might help patients avoid a heart bypass operation, but there was no shortcut to providing young children with positive, supportive experiences during these critical years. Early childhood is the time to build strong brain connections. I continue to admire all of the wonderful people in the world that devote their lives to young children.