In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Childhood Mathematics

  • Introduction

Education Early Childhood Mathematics
Arthur Baroody, David Purpura, Erin Reid, Veena Paliwal, Neet Priya Bajwa
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0054


Although the term early childhood mathematics education often refers to instruction for three- to six-year-olds in preschool or kindergarten programs by a teacher or paraprofessional, the present review will focus on the mathematical teaching and learning of children from birth to kindergarten (six years of age). This is because a preschooler’s mathematical learning begins before three years of age, can involve a wide variety of people (e.g., parents, siblings, other relatives or caregivers, peers), and can occur in informal or everyday situations. Indeed, increasingly, the term early childhood mathematics education includes other intentional training by educational media (e.g., educational television programming, computer programs, websites dedicated to math games, or other forms of training). Moreover, although the term sometimes includes primary school (grades one and two) children, this review will not include references that focus on grade one children or those who are older primarily because of limited space. However, some references in which a portion of the sample included those who were as old as eight years are included. Since the 1970s, research has revealed that preschoolers are capable of developing a surprising degree of informal mathematical knowledge. Although scholars continue to debate how children acquire this knowledge, they generally agree that early mathematical knowledge provides an essential foundation for understanding and learning school or formal mathematics. Unfortunately, research has also shown that significant differences in mathematical knowledge emerge before school begins. Consensus has grown in recent years that early intervention programs are important for “leveling the playing field.” Although some agreement exists on what these programs should teach, debate is ongoing on how best to teach mathematics to preschoolers.

General Overviews

This section summarizes general overviews that focus on research, policy, and pedagogy. The first subsection will be of interest primarily to educational and developmental researchers; the second, to policymakers, administrators, and teachers; and the third, to practitioners. Generalists and those interested in professional development should find all three subsections helpful.

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