“For much of the last century, educators and many scientists believed that children could not learn math at all before the age of five, that their brains simply were not ready.”
When I read this in a recent New York Times article I was somewhat surprised to learn that this was the common belief among educators. Fortunately there is a rapidly growing base of knowledge regarding brain function that is leading teachers, authors, and curriculum specialists to change their expectations of when children can start to learn math.
This research suggests that infants can distinguish a single object from two objects, and two objects from three. Studies have found that at 18 months children can recognize geometric shapes. By the time a child reaches preschool age, the brain can handle larger numbers and will try to connect concrete quantities, say, five blocks, with the abstract symbol “5.” Studies by anthropologists suggest that mammals’ brains are “hard-wired” with a number instinct, such that cultures in remote areas with no formal education have a basic understanding of quantities.
The husband and wife research team of Julie Sarama and Doug Clements, both at the university of Buffalo, applied this and other research by developing an early math program called “Building Blocks.” The program, developed specifically for preschool-age children, includes numerous math-based activities that draw on findings from cognitive science. Building Blocks has been used over the last four years in more than 400 classrooms in the Buffalo area, and the results are impressive. Preschool students in the program taking an addition test scored on average in the 76th percentile, while students not in the program who took the same test averaged in the 50th percentile. And a year after the program ended, when students finished kindergarten, children in program sustained their gains, scoring on average in the 71st percentile.
And to get help with developing your own math programs, give us a call at Publishing Solutions Group. You can have great expectations of us and our work.