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Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity
specific standards by process strand (Georgia, New York, and Texas). Notably, although these strands are specified for kindergarten, these process standards are very similar, if not identical, at each grade, K-8. Two states (Arizona and Massachusetts) provide a general description of process standards in the introductory material of their K-6 or K-8 document. These descriptions emphasize the importance of the process strands outlined in the PSSM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). The California and Ohio documents include process standards organized within one strand (“Mathematical Reasoning” in the California document and “Mathematical Process Standard” in the Ohio document) for each grade. The California document lists process standards that are common across kindergarten and Grade 1. Likewise, the Ohio document includes a list of process standards that are common to Grades K-2.
A total of 49 states have early learning standards in mathematics; on average, states devote the greatest emphasis to the area of number (32 percent of the standards on average). Specific emphasis within the areas of number, geometry, and measurement showed considerable state-to-state variation. According to our analysis for the 10 largest states, the greatest emphasis in kindergarten is also placed on number (40 percent of the standards on average). However, there is also considerable variation in content of the specific standards across all of the areas. In fact, of the 103 total standards across the 10 states, 47 are unique to just 1 or 2 state documents.
A pattern of wide variation across states in emphasis given to mathematics as a whole and relative emphasis given to various topics in mathematics emerges from these analyses of standards. Thus, while some common topics could be identified, when taken as a whole, the state standards do not communicate a clear consensus about the most important mathematical ideas for young children to learn.
THE CLASSROOM CONTEXT
We begin with a description of the classroom context in which mathematics instruction takes place. We then focus specifically on what is known about mathematics teaching and learning practices in preschool and kindergarten classrooms—when it occurs, how often, and in what contexts.
Results from several large studies of prekindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten classrooms paint a detailed picture of how young children spend their time in these settings and the quality of their learning experiences. We draw particularly on two studies conducted by the National Center for