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Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity
when I made some mistakes myself in adding and subtracting. (Personal communication, comments by student of H. Ginsburg, Teachers College, Columbia University, September 2007.)
In recent years, however, interest in mathematics as a key aspect of early childhood education has increased across both the policy and the practice communities. In 2000, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), in their revision of the 1989 standards for elementary and secondary school mathematics, included prekindergarten for the first time. Also in 2000, a conference of early childhood and mathematics educators was held to focus more explicitly on standards for preschool and kindergarten children (Clements, Sarama, and DiBiase, 2004). In 2002, Good Start, Grow Smart, an early childhood-focused White House initiative, resulted in the linking of federal funding to the requirement that all states develop voluntary early learning guidelines in language, literacy, and mathematics. The now-suspended National Reporting System for assessing learning outcomes for children participating in Head Start programs, begun in 2002, originally specified four areas of focus for assessment, one of which was early mathematical skills (the other three were language-related: comprehension of spoken English, vocabulary, and letter naming) (National Research Council, 2008). Also in 2002, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the NCTM approved a joint position statement, “Early Childhood Math: Promoting Good Beginnings,” which included recommendations to guide both policy and practice.
In 2006, following on its efforts to improve language and literacy outcomes for the children it serves, the Office of Head Start turned its attention to early mathematics. It convened a mathematics working group composed of parents, local staff, researchers, and other experts in early mathematics learning and has since moved forward on developing strategies for helping Head Start and Early Head Start programs support the early mathematics learning of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
LEARNING FROM THE RESEARCH
Clearly there is growing interest in including mathematics among the learning goals for young children and in improving the teaching of mathematics in developmentally appropriate ways. Over the past several decades, significant investments have been made in research on early development and learning, much of which is ripe for examination and synthesis as it applies to early mathematics.
In the past decade, the NRC has uncovered and synthesized key aspects of the knowledge about learning and development in early childhood. In the reports From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Child-