Math Matters, Even for Little Kids
Everyone knows that children who are not reading at grade level by 3rd grade are fated to struggle academically throughout school. Concerns about early literacy skills are justified because reading skills at kindergarten entry predict later academic achievement.
But guess what predicts later academic success better than early reading? Early math skills. In "School Readiness and Later Achievement," a widely cited 2007 study of large longitudinal data sets, University of California, Irvine, education professor Greg Duncan and his colleagues found that in a comparison of math, literacy, and social-emotional skills at kindergarten entry, "early math concepts, such as knowledge of numbers and ordinality, were the most powerful predictors of later learning." A large-scale Canadian study from 2010 echoes those findings: Math skills at school entry predicted math skills and even reading skills in 3rd and 2nd grade, respectively, better than reading skills at school entry. Although the mechanisms underlying such associations are not yet understood, the importance of early mathematics, and thus of access to it for all students, is clear.
We have a long way to go. Vanderbilt University education professor Dale Farran reports in her recent study of preschool classrooms that math was intentionally taught by teachers only 2.5 percent of the day. Increasing the amount of time children spend engaged in instruction involving math conversation from 2 percent to only 4 percent led to significant math gains. Young children will take advantage of the opportunities we give them to develop...
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