Early Math—Understanding Numbers and Operations

The US Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences has recently released a guide entitled Teaching Math to Young Children.  The goal of the publication is to provide specific, evidence-based recommendations on teaching math to young children.  They provide 5 specific recommendations.  We will spend the next few weeks going through those recommendations. 

The first recommendation is to “teach number and operations using a developmental progression.”  Just like most things that we learn, there are foundational concepts and skills that must be gained before the higher-level skills can be learned.  Good teachers can determine which concepts and skills their students possess and, thereby, understand what they need to learn next. 

The first concepts of early number knowledge to be acquired are:

  • Small-number recognition—to be able to recognize by sight how many items are in a collection without having to count them.Initially, work on up to 3 items, then increase to up to 5 items.
  • One-to-one correspondence—to be able to assigning a counting number to each item in a collection to determine how many total items are in the collection.The child must understand that each item receives one, and only one, number.
  • Compare quantities—to be able to use counting and number words to compare two collections and use words like “less” and “more” to describe the relationship between the collections. The child must understand that each number is exactly one more than the previous number.
  • Solve basic problems—children can add or subtract items from the collection to determine “how many are there now” when items are added and “how many are left” when some are removed.

For more information and suggestions on activities to teach these concepts to children, check out the guide at:  http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pdf/practice_guides/early_math_pg_111313.pdf#page=18

Misty