(Lubienski, 2007). Racial/ethnic groups are heterogeneous, and children in particular racial/ethnic groups have mathematical knowledge and skills that range from low to high mastery levels.
Generally, African American, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native children achieve at lower levels than their white peers in mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Few data exist on early childhood mathematics teaching and learning in relation to race/ethnicity, but one can extrapolate from K-12 studies. Findings suggest that this achievement disparity is related to differences in mathematics learning before school entry and fewer meaningful pedagogical experiences once children of color enter school (Magnuson and Waldfogel, 2008). For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) survey data show that fourth grade black and Hispanic students and those with low SES report that mathematics mainly consists of memorizing facts, a belief that is negatively correlated with achievement even after controlling for race/ethnicity and SES (Lubienski, 2006, 2007). Furthermore, teachers’ reports indicate that black and Hispanic children were more likely to be routinely assessed with multiple-choice tests than white students (Lubienski, 2006). These practices do not represent the best pedagogy for high-quality mathematics education (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000).
Teachers who build on children’s everyday mathematical experiences promote genuine mathematics learning (Civil, 1998; Ladson-Billings, 1995). For example, Ladson-Billings (1995) found that urban and suburban students’ community experiences shaped the way they approached a mathematics problem-solving task and that students’ differing approaches to learning could be used by teachers to inform their instruction. Instructional practices that extend children’s out-of-school experiences are more likely to produce meaningful mathematics learning.
Surprisingly little research has examined the mathematics performance of English language learners. Findings for other subject areas show that children who have limited proficiency in English perform more poorly than their native English-speaking peers in other academic subjects (McKeon, 2005). A major issue for educating English language learners (ELL) is the language of instruction (Barnett et al., 2007; Genesee et al., 2006). In research conducted by Barnett and colleagues (2007) with 3- and 4-year-olds, they tested whether children in a two-way immersion (English and Spanish) or those in English-only programs made gains in English language measures of mathematics, vocabulary development, and literacy. They found that children in both types of programs made gains on all academic measures