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Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity
worksheets, solving mathematical problems in small groups or with a partner, working on mathematical problems that reflect real-life situations, working in mixed achievement groups on mathematics activities, and using computers to learn mathematics. A somewhat different pattern was evident for using music to understand mathematics, using creative movement or creative drama to understand mathematical concepts, completion of mathematical problems on the chalkboard, and engaging in peer tutoring. A quarter or more of the teachers indicated that they never asked students to do these activities, whereas another quarter or more used these activities at least one to two times per week.
Mathematics Practices Across Diverse Preschool Settings
Findings from the few smaller scale studies that examined mathematics in early childhood settings show a similar pattern. In one study, teachers in two states from a range of preschool settings, including family and group child care providers, were surveyed about their mathematics instruction (Sarama, 2002; Sarama and DiBiase, 2004). Most teachers reported using manipulatives (95 percent), number songs (74 percent), and games (71 percent). Only 33 percent used software, and 16 percent reported using mathematical worksheets. Teachers reported a preference for children to explore mathematics activities and engage in free play rather than participate in large group lessons or do mathematical worksheets. The mathematics topics teachers reported were counting (67 percent), sorting (60 percent), numeral recognition (51 percent), patterning (46 percent), number concepts (34 percent), spatial relations (32 percent), making shapes (16 percent), and measuring (14 percent). The least popular topics were geometry and measurement.
In an observational study of New Jersey preschools, teachers were found to provide little support for children’s mathematical skill development and seldom used mathematics terminology (Frede et al., 2007). Of particular interest is that over 40 percent of the classrooms in this study were rated as good to excellent quality on the ECERS-R measure of the environmental quality of early childhood programs. Apparently, mathematics teaching and learning is relatively rare even in classrooms that are otherwise judged to be of high quality.
RESEARCH ON EFFECTIVE MATHEMATICS INSTRUCTION
The majority of research that is focused specifically on mathematics taught in early childhood examines the effectiveness of a particular mathematics curriculum (e.g., Clements and Sarama, 2008a; Sophian, 2004; Starkey, Klein, and Wakeley, 2004). Although much of this work meets very