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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Math Gets More Rigorous for Some Preschoolers

"Preschools are ramping up math education, in response to brain research that shows educators may be underestimating how much math young children can do." continues The Associated Press.

Pre-K teacher Julia Brady uses handmade beads on pipe-cleaner boards with her students during a recent math lesson at South Shore Pre-K School in Seattle. The games are being used to teach pre-kindergartners about math concepts.
—Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/AP

On a recent morning in South Seattle, Kristin Alfonzo challenged her preschoolers to make the number 7 using beads strung across two rows of pipe cleaners.

One 5-year-old boy slid four beads across the top and three across the bottom. Another did the reverse, and one kid pushed all seven on one row.

"I see many different ways of making 7!" Alfonzo said over the ruckus of kids counting out loud.

Preschools typically leave math for grade school, in the belief that 4- and 5-year-olds aren't old enough to understand what 7 stands for. Decades of brain science now show that waiting is a mistake.

Even in the crib, research shows, infants can tell the difference between eight dots and 16 using an innate "number sense" we share with other species that helps us make some size comparisons without counting.

By the time they are preschool age, students like the ones in Alfonzo's class can grasp simple addition — three beads plus four beads makes seven beads — even if they can't yet write the equations.

They're getting a strong start in math with games and playful activities that show all the ways they can use numbers and shapes to describe and measure differences and relationships between things...

The city of Seattle's new subsidized preschool program, which voters approved last year, wants to boost math instruction in many more places, using an approach that's similar to the one used at South Shore — and in Boston Public Schools, an urban district that has boosted third-grade math scores by improving how math is taught to 4-year-olds.

Such investments may reap gains in reading, too. A groundbreaking study in 2007, done by Northwestern University professor Greg Duncan and others, found that math skills in kindergarten predict third-grade test scores in both reading and math — a surprising result that scientists are still working to understand.

But it suggests that a good start in math is key because research also shows that kids who start out behind in the early grades don't tend to catch up.

Boston and South Shore educators aren't swapping play time for flashcard drills and work sheets, the fear of those who worry that preschool is becoming too focused on academics.

Instead, teachers infuse math into games such as "not my way" — which Alfonzo plays with her students after they've warmed up by making the number 7.
Read more... 

Source: The Associated Press - Education Week (subscription)


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