Early Childhood Mathematics and Development

Building Preschool Math Skills

There is no doubt that early math skills for preschoolers are important. Discover why math is essential for young learners and how to develop these skills.

Teaching early mathematics concepts to young children can truly benefit them as life long learners. In the developmental continuum the early childhood years (ages birth through six) are an essential time period for acquiring a foundation for many educational concepts. This article focuses on the importance of early learning in the area of math.

The Importance of Early Childhood Mathematics Foundations

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) stresses the importance of early math education in their September 2007 Position Statement on What is Important in Early Childhood Mathematics? by stating that, “A high-quality, challenging and accessible mathematics education provides early childhood learners with a vital foundation for the future understanding of mathematics”.

This sentiment is seconded by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in their 2002 position statement on early childhood mathematics. Both NCTM and NAEYC agree that early math education is vital to the development of young children in multiple areas. Through introducing a sustained, research-based math curriculum, preschool teachers can effectively help young children to grow as learners.

How To Use Math In The Preschool Classroom

There are many different ways to introduce basic mathematical concepts to preschoolers. According to both the NCTM and NAEYC, the overarching curricular goals should include:

  • Build on the specific experience of the children in the classroom. This includes using words and materials that are familiar to the children in terms of previous knowledge, community, and cultural significance.
  • Continue extended and sustained interactions with a math curriculum or math concepts over the course of the school year. Instead of simply adding in a math lesson or unit here and there when it is convenient, try to incorporate math learning into a regularly scheduled time. This does not mean that teachers necessarily need to section out a period or block of the day for a math lesson. One option is to be intentional in adding math to lesson plans throughout the week or month. Preplan and add in math activities where they fit into the larger curriculum or weekly unit.
  • Integrate math learning into other classroom areas/curricula. Math for young children should not mean sitting down and doing worksheets. Make math learning a fun, interactive process that crosses other areas of learning such as literacy, art, music, and physical education. Additionally, math can be included in regular play activities such as block building.
  • Use new mathematics based vocabulary. Introduce the correct math vocabulary to young children. A preschooler is able to understand and recall a word such as geometric when referring to a shape.

Math Activity Ideas for Preschoolers

There are a large number of pre-planned math activities for young children that are readily available through teacher reference books, websites, or early childhood publications. Look for activities that meet learning standards and are connected to the specific knowledge and interests of the class. These activities should be child-centered, interactive, and include other class content areas.