The National Research Council (NRC) released a study in 2009 about the importance of having a preschool mathematics curriculum and for preparing adults to cover the math material for this age group more effectively. The report reiterates what early childhood education advocates often say, that too much emphasis is placed on literacy in preschool while math skills suffer.
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Children in Preschool
The NRC study focused on children between the ages of two and six, and showed that they enter preschool with the ability and willingness to tackle math. The current system of preschool care is a patchwork of programs and services with no real consistency -- 60 per cent of preschool-aged children in centre-based care such as Head Start programs, 20 per cent are in home-based care and 20 per cent receive no formal preschool experience at all. Yet, NRC studies show that the beginning of informal mathematical abilities begins in babies.
Early Math Development
An example of mathematical thinking is if a toddler is offered the choice between two pieces of a broken chocolate bar, he will choose the largest piece. He already understands the concepts of more and less. Parents and teachers should build on those beginnings of mathematical knowledge. Early childhood preschool programs can select a math curriculum that builds on children's cognitive abilities. Preschoolers are asked how old they are, or how many of something they want. This is their first exposure to math.
Preschool Mathematics Curriculum
The NRC report suggests that early childhood curriculum does not focus on a math curriculum partly due to teachers' and parents' discomfort with the subject. However, a preschool math lesson can be as simple as counting rocks or pennies. Preschool children can measure their feet or determine which leaf is the largest. Math curriculum for preschool does not mean flash cards or worksheets. Toddlers learn through experience. They can contrast a whole circle with a half circle.
Mathematics in Preschool
Early childhood programs can develop curriculum that focuses on a child's developing skills in areas of math such as geometry, whole numbers and measurement, which the authors of the NRC report see as crucial. Mathematics can provide a link between the pre-kindergarten through third grade continuum of math learning. Math is a tool, and for children to learn how to solve problems quickly, the foundation must be set in preschool. They need to learn early how important math is in their everyday lives.
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