Early Math (Guest Blogger: Kathy Sheridan)

Early math has become a favorite topic of mine and each year I grow more committed to helping early childhood professionals learn about early math and the significance early math holds for later academic success in children.

Did you know that when researchers analyzed the data from a number of longitudinal studies of children in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, the results indicated that early math skills were a stronger predictor of later academic performance than reading, attention and social emotional behaviors (Duncan, G.J., Claessens, A., Huston, A.C., Pagani, L. S., Engel, M., Sexton, H., Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43(6), 1428-1446.)?

Shocking right? Early math skills are a stronger predictor of later academic success than reading? WOW!!!

When you walk into an early childhood classroom you usually see a lot of evidence that literacy is viewed as important. But sadly, we often see little evidence that math (and science) have been embraced by early childhood teachers and staff. Many teachers of our youngest children have reported that they are uncomfortable with teaching math to kids, are uncomfortable with their own math knowledge, and thus do not include it in their daily planning and work with children. This news caused my colleagues and I to take action!

For the past 5 years, we have been the recipients of a grant funded by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Foundation. Our project has been to develop a free access early math web site for family home care providers and others working with children. We have even been told that some of you are sending your students to our site to watch the short videos about the big ideas in early math, or to look for lessons and other resources. That web site, www.mathathome.org has been up and running for a few years now. The site includes free annotated lessons, videos, links to resources and a blog!


Recently, we have expanded the project to include 8 one-hour professional development courses that focus on early math. The 8 courses are sequenced and anyone registered at the Illinois Gateways to Opportunity ilearning course website can take them. The courses are free and will be launching in January.



Check it out! www.mathathome.org. We have had a steady stream of users to our website and our lessons, videos and blog have been very popular. We never sell anything on the website, everything is free.



The Math at Home professional development sequence is a series of eight courses focusing on early math content and application in settings that provide care and education for young children.

Each of the courses takes approximately 1 hour to complete and includes interview with experts, videos and quizzes to check your learning. Below I have listed each course and the course objectives:

#1. Introduction to Early Math Content Areas

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Describe the importance of Early Math knowledge and skills for young children.
  2. Identify 5 major content areas in Early Math.
  3. Explore the Math at Home site and locate several different resources available.

#2 Number Sense

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Define number sense.
  2. Identify the 5 counting principles.
  3. Discern between number labels and counting skills.
  4. Plan for supporting number sense in the classroom.
  5. Assess children’s number sense

#3 Patterns

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Define patterns and identify their characteristics.
  2. Recognize the ways ordering, sequencing, and patterning are connected.
  3. Plan activities that involve patterns
  4. Recognize the developmental sequences of children’s understandings of patterning.
  5. Plan for supporting children’s developmental understandings of patterns

#4 Shapes and Spaces (Geometry)

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Define geometry for young children.
  2. Explain three foundational concepts about shapes.
  3. Identify components of spatial reasoning.
  4. Describe developmental levels of geometric thinking.
  5. Plan for supporting geometry in the classroom.

#5 Measure for Measure (Measurement)

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Define measurement and how it fits into the early childhood curriculum.
  2. Differentiate between standard and nonstandard units of measure and how they can be used with young children.
  3. Describe the developmental trajectory of measurement skills in young children.
  4. Choose and use appropriate tools for measurement.
  5. Plan for supporting measurement activities in the classroom.

#6 Data Collection and Analysis

After completion participants should be able to:

Define data collection and data analysis.

  1. Formulate appropriate questions with children that can be answered by gathering and analyzing data.
  2. Sort, organize and display data in appropriate ways for the early childhood classroom.
  3. Use appropriate methods for analyzing data.
  4. Plan for supporting data gathering and data analysis in the classroom.

#7 Math Processes

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Define the five math processes
  2. Identify connection between math processes and dispositions towards learning.
  3. Describe how to support young children’s development of math processes
  4. Plan for supporting math processes in the classroom

#8 Environments

After completion participants should be able to:

  1. Describe the different components of the math environment.
  2. Identify key materials and features of materials that support children’s development of mathematical concepts.
  3. Describe how routines can be used to support children’s mathematical learning.
  4. Plan for setting up a math rich environment.

Our research and development team is also engaging in a research project around the effectiveness of the online Math at Home professional development courses. If you know any providers that are interested, they can learn more about that research in the 1st online Math at Home professional development course.

How are all of you helping your students to be powerful early math leaders and teachers? What resources are you using! Please share with us.

I leave you with a math joke (share a math joke with us!)


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