Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insight to ‘Teaching Math to Young Children’

By Sharri Zachary, RME Mathematics Research Coordinator

The National Research Council (NRC) and the National Council for Teachers in Mathematics (NCTM) describe two fundamental areas of mathematics for young children: 1) Number and Operations, and 2) Geometry and Measurement. According to the NRC (2009), conceptual development within number and operations should focus on students’ development of the list of counting numbers and the use of counting numbers to describe total objects in a given set. It is recommended that teachers provide students with opportunities to “subitize small collections [of objects], practice counting, compare the magnitude [size] of collections, and use numerals to quantify collections” (Frye et al., 2013). Conceptual development in geometry and measurement should support the idea that geometric shapes have different parts that can be described and include activities that model composition and decomposition of geometric shapes.
The Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) released a practice guide recently on Teaching Math to Young Children. The recommendations put forth in the IES practice guide are:

  1. Teach number and operations using a developmental progression
  2. Teach geometry, patterns, measurement, and data analysis using a developmental learning progression
  3. Use progress monitoring to ensure that math instruction builds on what each child knows
  4. Teach children to view and describe their world mathematically
  5. Dedicate time each day to teaching math, and integrate math instruction throughout the school day
These recommendations are intended to:

  • Guide teacher preparation that will result in later math success for students
  • Provide descriptions of early content areas to be integrated into classroom instructional practices
  • Assist in the development of curriculum for students in early grades
To access/download the full IES practice guide, please visit

Frye, D., Baroody, A. J., Burchinal, M., Carver, S. M., Jordan, N. C., & McDowell, J. (2013). Teaching math to young children: A practice guide (NCEE 2014-4005). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Educa-tion. Retrieved from the NCEE website:

National Research Council. (2009). Mathematics learning in early childhood: Paths toward excellence and equity. Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press

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