Mathematics in early childhood education

The March issue of International Journal of Early Years Education contains several articles that are related to mathematics education:

  • Elizabeth Dunphy has written an article called Early childhood mathematics teaching: challenges, difficulties and priorities of teachers of young children in primary schools in Ireland. Abstract: Issues of pedagogy are critical in all aspects of early childhood education. Early childhood mathematics is no exception. There is now a great deal of guidance available to teachers in terms of high-quality early childhood mathematics teaching. Consequently, the characteristics of high-quality early childhood mathematics education are clearly identifiable. Issues such as building on young children’s prior-to-school knowledge; engaging children in general mathematical processes; and assessing and documenting children’s learning are some of the key aspects of high-quality early childhood mathematics education. The extent to which teachers of four- and five-year-old children in primary schools in Ireland incorporate current pedagogical guidance in early childhood mathematics education was explored in 2007 in a nationally representative questionnaire survey of teachers of four- and five-year-old children attending primary schools. This paper presents some of the findings of the study in relation to teachers’ self-reported challenges, difficulties and priorities in teaching early childhood mathematics. Implications are drawn for professional development, curriculum guidance and educational policy.
  • Sally Howell and Coral Kemp have written an article called A participatory approach to the identification of measures of number sense in children prior to school entry. Abstract: The research reported in this paper used a modified Delphi procedure in an attempt to establish a consensus on tasks proposed to assess components of number sense identified as essential for early mathematics success by a broad range of academics with expertise in the area of early mathematics. Tasks included as measures of these components were based on assessment tasks developed by early mathematics researchers. Eighteen questionnaires were returned by academics from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the USA, all with published work in the areas of early mathematics and/or number sense. Both the proposed components and tasks in the questionnaires were limited to the number domain. The study revealed considerable agreement with a number of the proposed tasks and thus provided a way forward for the development of an early number sense assessment to be trialled with young children prior to their first year of formal schooling. 
  • A third article, entitled Numeracy-related exchanges in joint storybook reading and play, was written by Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, Jackie Nelson, Charity Bumpass annd Bianca Sassine. Abstract: Studies of the processes by which parents encourage early numerical development in the context of parent-child interactions during routine, culturally relevant activities at home are scarce. The present study was designed to investigate spontaneous exchanges related to numeracy during parent-child interactions in reading and play activities at home. Thirty-seven families with a four-year-old child (13 low-income) were observed. Two types of numeracy interactions were of interest: socio-cultural numeracy exchanges, explaining the use and value of money or numbers in routine activities such as shopping or cooking, and mathematical exchanges, including counting, quantity or size comparisons. Results indicated that high-income parents engaged in more mathematical exchanges during both reading and play than did low-income parents, though there were no differences in the initiation of socio-cultural numeracy exchanges. The focus of parental guidance related to numeracy was conceptual and embedded in the activity context, with few dyads focusing on counting or numbers per se. The findings suggest the importance of parent education efforts that incorporate numeracy-related discourse in the context of daily routines to augment young children’s numeracy development.

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