What does learning look like for the early years?

In 2009, the National Research Council Committee reported on the learning of math in early years (pre-kindergarten). They advocate that all children are capable of learning math, but many are not provided the chance to engage in mathematical opportunities. (For more, click here.)

They believe children can be and should be learning math at an early age.

But, believers beware!!!! That does NOT mean that children should be doing worksheets and learning math facts. In fact, new research shows that teaching kids more and more, earlier and earlier, can actually backfire! Evidence shows that direct teaching can actually impede creativity and curiousity! (For more, click here.)

So what does learning math look like at this age? Here’s a few slides to show you.

Young children acquire knowledge through the following 3 learning experiences; however, you can consider them like a progression.

  1. Naturalistic: The child controls his choice and action. The teacher provides interesting and rich environments that can be explored with all 5 senses.
  2. Informal: The child chooses the activity and action, but the adult intervenes at some point. The teacher looks for those teachable moments and asks good questions.
  3. Adult-guided learning: This is when the teacher chooses the activity and gives direction for the child’s action. The teacher’s role is to guide inquiry.

Children initially learn concepts naturally. As they develop, learning becomes more informal, and finally adult-guided learning can be introduced. Learning in pre-k should be a mixture of these 3 methods, but with a focus on #1 and #2.

So what are you doing to develop the mathematical minds of your 3 and 4 year olds? Are you looking for those teachable moments? Are you planning great experiences that encourages the use of all 5 senses? Are you setting up their environment with stimulating provocations? Teaching math at an early age isn’t about learning numbers and facts. It is about building an awareness; encouraging exploration; promoting inquiry and allowing kids to construct their own knowledge in a play-based environment.

Most importantly, have fun!



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