Early-childhood education, whether provided through federal preschool programs or other means, needs to be revamped to place more emphasis on mathematics instruction and prepare adults to cover that material more effectively, a report concludes.
Released July 2 by the congressionally chartered National Research Council, the report reiterates a point commonly made by advocates for early education: Math is often neglected in prekindergarten settings, in contrast to the heavy focus placed on literacy.
That neglect stems in part from preschool instructors’ lack of comfort with math, as well as parents’ fear of that subject, the authors say. The lack of attention comes despite research that shows many young students arriving in preschool with an ability and a willingness to tackle math lessons, according to the report.
The consequences of not providing an early math foundation to disadvantaged children, given their more limited opportunities to learn the subject outside of school, can be especially great, the authors found. They contend, though, that high-quality math instruction can help overcome “systematic inequities in educational outcomes.”
The report focuses primarily on 2- to 6-year-olds. Enacting its recommendations, one member of the report panel said, would require involving many players, including officials from the federal Head Start program, professional associations, and state licensing programs.
A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2009 edition of Education Week