Mathematics is the language of science. A lot of attention has been focused on the need to improve the technical and scientific literacy of the American public. The new demands of international competition in the 21st century require a workforce that is competent in and comfortable with mathematics. At what age should we start preparing students? According to Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity, we should start in pre-school. This book states that most children have the capability to learn and become competent in mathematics, but that for many, the potential to learn mathematics in the early years of school is not currently realized. This stems from a lack of opportunities to learn mathematics either in early childhood settings or through everyday experiences in homes and in communities. This is particularly the case for economically disadvantaged children, who start out behind in mathematics and will remain so without extensive, high-quality early mathematics instruction.
Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood recommends that a coordinated national early childhood mathematics initiative should be put in place to improve mathematics teaching and learning for all children ages 3-6. Our goal should be to ensure that all children enter elementary school with the mathematical foundation they need for success. This requires that individuals throughout the early childhood education system—including the teaching workforce, curriculum developers, program directors, and policy makers—transform their approach to mathematics education in early childhood by supporting, developing, and implementing research-based practices and curricula. The book develops research-based teaching-learning paths—sequences of learning experiences in which one idea lays the foundation for the next.
Adding It Up: Helping Children Learn Mathematics defines what it means to be successful in mathematics by describing the 5 strands of mathematics learning. This book examines school mathematics during a critical period in a child’s education—from pre-kindergarten (pre-K) through eighth grade.
Helping Children Learn Mathematics is a practical tool to provide comprehensive and reliable information that will direct efforts to improve school mathematics. It is addressed to parents and caregivers, teachers, administrators, and policy makers, as a guide to improve mathematics learning.
These books and others from the National Research Council can provide guidance and inform debate in mathematics education.