(2002) names five critical areas of knowledge that early childhood teachers must have to be effective in teaching mathematics to young children: (1) knowledge of the mathematical content that they will be teaching, (2) knowledge of children’s learning and development, (3) knowledge of effective mathematics pedagogy, (4) knowledge of effective means for assessing children’s development and learning, and (5) knowledge of the resources and tools available for teaching early childhood mathematics. In addition to acquiring these areas of knowledge, teachers also need to have a positive attitude toward mathematics (National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2002), believe that young children are competent mathematics learners, and believe that mathematics is appropriate in the early childhood classroom (Ginsburg et al., 2006a; Lee and Ginsburg, 2007b). Themes related to the need for, and the nature of, such preparation are discussed in the following sections.

Early childhood educators need preparation in mathematics for several reasons. Unlike their elementary school counterparts, most early childhood teachers, including those with degrees in early childhood education, have received no prior preparation in teaching mathematics (Copple, 2004; Ginsburg et al., 2006b) Therefore, virtually all early childhood teachers need professional development to build their knowledge and skills around mathematics. This is especially important in light of the recent attention that researchers, funding agencies, major early childhood professional organizations, and policy makers are focusing on targeting improved mathematics outcomes in early childhood, particularly for children from low-income backgrounds (National Association for the Education of Young Children and National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2002; National Mathematics Advisory Panel, 2008). As stated by Copple (2004):

Practically all teachers need to know more about mathematics—the nature of the beast—and how to work with children in mathematics. They need to know much more about what mathematics young children are interested in and capable of doing; many vastly underestimate the range of young children’s interests and the extent of their capabilities. (pp. 86-87)

Mathematics Content and Early Childhood Teacher Preparation

A good deal of the research in early childhood mathematics has focused on the content that is necessary to be taught in teacher preparation programs, including both in-service and pre-service programs. That is, this research has focused on (1) mathematics knowledge, (2) mathematics beliefs, and (3) children’s mathematical development and curricula to support it.


Mathematics knowledge. Virtually no empirical research exists directly examining teachers’ mathematics knowledge (Ginsburg and Ertle, 2008;



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement