order to perform at levels consistent with their more advantaged and skilled peers (Hamre and Pianta, 2005). In short, less advantaged children need programs that actually accelerate learning if they are to enter school not behind at the start. However, preschool and kindergarten teachers of low-SES children rate memorizing facts and rote tasks (procedural knowledge) as more important educational goals than problem solving and tasks involving reasoning (conceptual knowledge), and they tend to agree with a more basic skills teaching orientation than teachers of middle-SES children (Stipek and Byler, 1997).
The teaching of mathematics has been considered a part of the early childhood educators’ portfolio, along with many other developmental and disciplinary domains (e.g., social and emotional development, physical development, literacy, social studies) that they must address. To understand how the early childhood workforce currently views and addresses mathematics, we examine early childhood teachers’ beliefs about mathematics, their mathematics knowledge, and how these beliefs and knowledge actually impact what they do in the classroom.
Generally, early childhood teachers believe that social-emotional and physical development are more important to young children’s development and learning than academic activities, including mathematics (Ginsburg et al., 2006a; Lin, Lawrence, and Gorrell, 2003; Piotrkowski, Botsko, and Matthews, 2001). In a recent review of the research, Ginsburg and colleagues (2008) found that preschool teachers report social-emotional development, literacy, and then mathematics—in that order—as important educational goals for young children to achieve.
A second set of beliefs focuses on the nature of mathematics instruction. Early childhood educators generally believe that mathematics education should focus on numeracy and arithmetic through some direct instruction (Lee and Ginsburg, 2007b). They also tend to believe that young children should engage in games and other activities in which mathematics learning is fun and involves interesting toys or materials in small groups and that mathematics learning should not be highly demanding, nor should it be pushed on young children before they are “ready” (Lee and Ginsburg, 2007b).
Finally, a third set of beliefs regarding instructional practice is driven by children’s characteristics, particularly SES. Research examining ECE teach-