Early Math Matters Free Online Class

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the February 8th launch of the Math at Home Professional Development Series: EARLY MATH MATTERS. The series consist of a FREE ONLINE 8-course curriculum developed especially for caregivers of children from birth to age 5.
Each course provides one hour of Illinois Gateways Registry Approved Training. The courses are housed in the Illinois Gateways I-Learning site. Please click below to go to our Math at Home site where you can learn more.
Please spread the word!!!!!
Regards, Kathy Sheridan
P.S. We are working to ensure the courses also provide Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDUs) for those that require them.
Early Math Matters_Math At Home

Nature and Young Children (Guest blogger Elizabeth Sherwood)

ChildrenInNatureFor the past several years, I have taught a graduate class on Nature and the Young Child. It is designed to give teachers, informal educators, family members, and other interested adults interesting ways to help children spend time outdoors, learn about their immediate environment, and discover how interesting nature can be regardless of where they are. A sizeable body of research from a variety of disciplines indicates that time spent in nature supports the health and well-being of children. While I struggle with the term “nature-deficit disorder” coined by Richard Louv – it makes it sound like something is wrong with children instead of society – there is little doubt that the dramatic decrease in time children spend outdoors that has occurred over the last 50 years is having a negative impact on the lives of children.

As a result, we are adding content about the importance of children spending time in nature to a new course for undergraduates titled Inquiry, Investigation, and Play. I am sure many of you already include information on this topic in your classes. Below you will find some of the resources I’ve found to be useful. I hope you will share any others you have on the topic.

Here they are in no particular order:

The Natural Learning Initiative (North Carolina State University) – – provides reports of research funded by NSF and others on topics ranging from preventing obesity to activity levels of children; the “Green Desk” includes information for early childhood educators on designing outdoors spaces, gardening with young children, managing children outdoors, and more.

Children and Nature Network (founded by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder and others) – – contains much of the most up-to-date research on the impact of children little time in nature, as well as strategies for change.

Did you know there have been a number of studies that indicate that lack of time in daylight may be the cause of the rise in myopia in children? Read here for an overview of the issue:

The Landscape and Human Health Laboratory, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – – study the connection between greenery and human health; studies show that contact with green space improves ADHD symptoms, depression, and more.

North American Association for Environmental Education has produced Guidelines for Excellence in Early Childhood Environmental Education. You can purchase a copy or download them from the link

Nature Explore – affiliated with the Arbor Day Foundation; provides workshops, resources, and materials for outdoor spaces; Dimensions Foundation – – partners with Nature Explore and conducts ongoing research on children and nature.



The HERO website mentioned in our first ILAECTE blog is a great Illinois resource but there are resources beyond that. One of the best is MERLOT. MERLOT is a collection of educational resources (websites, tools, lesson plans) that can be shared with anyone who is a member (and membership is FREE!).

MERLOT also offers instructors the opportunity to be a peer reviewer of the materials in the collection. You go to online Grape Camp to get trained in how to do this and often get to know about new sites before they become well-known. I did this for one year and found the experience very valuable in learning how to evaluate websites.

Items in the MERLOT collection are listed by discipline and the one that would interest ILAECTE members would be Teacher Education. Looking for some good videos? Want to find a website/online program that provides opportunities for you to incorporate technology into your lessons? Want ideas for developing an online course? MERLOT can help you!

In addition, MERLOT offers instructors opportunities to explore the Scholarship of Teaching (SOT), a different avenue of research than looking at the various aspects of early childhood education. SOT is the examination and exploration of college teaching, how students learn and the best methods of teaching such students. In future blogs I will share more information about SOT but MERLOT is a good place to start.

The ILAECTE blog was started with two main goals (others may be added later). The first was to share information particular to Illinois about our discipline so we can stay up-to-date on the content we teach and be aware of changes in the state that affect our field. The second was to share information about college teaching, the pedagogy we use, and how we can improve what we do everyday with our students. If you have additional resources from which you think others could benefit, include them in your comment to this blog!


Message from ILAECTE President

Dear colleagues and friends,

Happy New Year! The New Year provides us with a renewed opportunity to reflect on the past and look to the future. I want to first express my appreciation and honor to serve as President of the Illinois Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators. Thanks to the strong and dedicated past leadership, our organization is strong, our voices are heard, and collectively we make a difference in the lives of children and families across our state. The past year has presented us with many challenges ranging from no state budget to threats of massive cuts to childcare funding. Many of us also have many accomplishments to celebrate including revision of licensure programs, participation in in partnership grants with two-year programs, and the development of a faculty resource website.

Our work, focusing on the development and support of the early childhood workforce, continues to have national attention. The recent report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, released by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council (NCR) offers a national and historical perspective on the early childhood workforce, as well as key recommendations for advancing the early childhood workforce. Many view this seminal report as the blueprint for advancing the early childhood workforce. In Illinois, with funding from the McCormick Foundation, a task force to consider these recommendations is being formed. I am part of a team that will be staffing the taskforce and am committed to including the voice, the expertise, and recommendations from ILAECTE. I will be convening opportunities for us to engage in the work throughout the coming year and welcome your input. Another critical report, Advancing the Early Childhood Profession: Next Steps, was just released by NAEYC at in December 2015. This report includes research showing strong bi-partisan support for investing in the Early Childhood Profession. It may be helpful to you as you continue to build support for early childhood education at your institutions.

Our ILAECTE website has been updated and includes a BLOG space. We hope to use this space to keep connected and informed. Please continue to check out this space and we welcome your contributions to the BLOG. Connect our Webmaster, Dr. Debbie Lee (, to post on our BLOG page.

All my best,

Cathy Main



One of the things we all want our students to be able to do when they graduate from our programs is to problem-solve the challenges they will face in the future. We can begin helping them develop the skills to do so by providing opportunities in our classes for them to do such problem-solving.

I am a very strong proponent of active and collaborative learning as I feel that such a structure in our classes allows students to engage with each other (another important skill!!) and work toward a common product or solution. I often use ideas from Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty, 2nd ed. (2014) by Barkley, Major, and Cross. One technique from this book I’d like to share with you today is Send-A-Problem.

Send-A-Problem is appropriate when you are discussing situations where there may be a number of challenges or barriers that need to be overcome. You begin by breaking the class into groups (4-5 students each works well). Each group is given one envelope and a short stack of index cards.

  • Groups are asked to consider possible challenges or barriers to a situation (i.e. getting families to attend family workshop nights) and write one of those problems on the outside of the envelope. It is important that they describe the problem in enough detail so that another group understands what they mean. There will be one problem envelope produced by each group so students will be considering multiple challenges.
  • Then the envelopes are passed to the next group (you decide how the rotation will go).
  • Groups each take the envelope they have just been given, consider the problem and, as a group, come up with a solution. They write this solution on an index card and put it in the envelope.
  • The envelopes are rotated again. Groups read the problem on the new envelope but DO NOT look at the proposed solution already inside the envelope. The group comes up with their own solution, writes it on an index card, and puts it inside the envelope.
  • Rotation continues as many times as the instructor deems best for the situation.
  • After rotation is completed (not all groups will necessarily get to see all problems), the last group to get each envelope will look at the index cards in the envelope and decide the best solution for the problem. This could be one of the proposed solutions, a combination of the proposals, or their own idea altogether. They then share the problem and their chosen solution with the class.

Such an activity requires students to use Bloom’s higher-level thinking skills: application, analysis, synthesis/creation, and evaluation. If we expect our students to scaffold their future students’ thinking skills, we need to be doing the same with them. This is just one way I have found to do so.

I hope this blog inspires some of you to do the same, if not Send-A-Problem, then another idea from the Barkley/Major/Cross book. I challenge all of you to consider incorporating at least one of these techniques in one of your spring courses! I also encourage you to comment on this blog, adding your own ideas and experiences incorporating active and collaborative learning in your classes.

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, 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! 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!)


Great Resource!

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a faculty professional development session based on Maryellen Weimer’s Learner-Centered Teaching book (more about that in another blog). That led me to a great resource. Yes, I know we all get TOO MANY emails, but some are definitely worth opening up and reading. Faculty Focus is a blog worth following. It comes out three times a week. Two of those postings are on issues that deal with the pedagogy of college teaching. The third is a wrap-up of the week and usually an ad for a webinar (OK, I don’t always read the Friday posting!) When you sign up for the blog, you also get access to past postings also. If you have ever been interested in the Scholarship of Teaching, this is a good place to start. Even if you are not, this is still a great resource for improving your own college teaching. You can sign up (FREE!!) at


Learning in a Social Context


ILAECTE is growing and taking new steps to reach out to our members and become a valuable resource to all Illinois early childhood teacher educators. This blog will be a place where ILAECTE members can share ideas. Each posting will highlight a different topic or pedagogical technique. Our first posting follows:

We’re expected to be the experts, the ones that train the next generation of early childhood educators, but we’re human. None of us is perfect. All of us can use some help at one point or another. That is where the Illinois Early Childhood Higher Education Resources Online (otherwise knows as HERO) site comes in. This is a place where you can keep up-to-date on what is happening, share with others your ideas and struggles, and find resources that will help you in your teaching.


Sign up is easy and once done you will have access to the resources there. Right now there is a forum on program redesign. Elizabeth Sherwood from SIU-E kicked it off by sharing what her institution has done. Anyone who has joined the site can be part of the discussion and share their ideas or ask questions. As most of us are dealing with this challenge right now, why not take the opportunity to learn from others? Isn’t that the basis of Vygotsky’s theory – that learning takes place in a social context? You can find the HERO site at

Besides using HERO as a resource, we hope that you will also use this website’s blog as a way to find out what is happening in our state. You can make comments on the postings, ask questions, become part of our conversation. Sign up is easy through RSS. What that means is that you will automatically receive our postings. We PROMISE no more than two or three a month!! BUT those will be very valuable, short, concise blogs that will help you as an early childhood teacher educator. Take a moment to sign up now.