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 expert consensus that two areas of mathematics are particularly important for young children to learn: (1) number, which includes whole number, operations, 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 committee 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 education system, including standards, curriculum, instruction, and the preparation and training of the teaching workforce.
For example, many widely used early childhood curricula do not provide sufficient guidance on mathematics pedagogy or content. When early childhood classrooms do have mathematics activities, they are often presented 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 instruction 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-