Early Years Introduction

From Foundations For Numeracy

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This resource kit was created for early learning practitioners and teachers to help them support the development of numeracy skills of children in their care. The information presented in the kit is based on a comprehensive review of recent well-designed research studies on the learning and teaching of mathematics. The findings of these studies are communicated in an accessible format, making this resource an effective reference tool that can be used in daily practice.

The kit is divided into two volumes: one for early learning and child care practitioners and the other for elementary school teachers. Each volume includes a research summary and several additional components. The current volume, which is intended for practitioners that work with children 0 to 6 years of age, includes the following components:

  • Ages & Stages of Numeracy Development (a resource for early childhood educators on developmental milestones)
  • Creating a Math-Rich Environment (tips for early childhood educators on how to make their classrooms more inviting and conducive to mathematics learning)
  • Activity Cards (learning activities for children 3-5 years of age)
  • Resources for Child Care Practitioners (a list of both print and online resources on supporting early numeracy)
  • Math with Kids is Fun! and Ages and Stages of Numeracy Development (two resource sheets from the Canadian Child Care Federation)
  • Glossary of Terms (definitions of technical terms related to early numeracy)

The kit is intended to supplement and enhance early childhood educators’ previous knowledge, as well as to introduce new information on mathematical concepts. It allows educators to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in mathematics teaching and learning, and helps educators to identify the most effective approaches that can be used in early learning environments. It is a useful professional development resource for those working with young children and a learning resource for practitioners in training. The terms early learning practitioner, early learning and child care practitioner, child care practitioner, early childhood educator and educator are used interchangeably throughout this kit and refer to those individuals who are working with children aged 0 to 5 years and their families in early learning and child care environments.

Numeracy during the Early Years

The everyday world for a young child is full of opportunities to engage with number and quantity. From the first few days of life, infants pay special attention to expressions of quantity in their environments. Babies’ everyday experiences provide the foundation for more advanced math concepts that develop throughout early childhood and beyond. As babies grow into toddlers, their knowledge of counting and quantity has the potential to improve very quickly. Preschoolers are capable of thinking about arithmetic and can solve math problems in meaningful ways.

Clearly, however, not all children are the same, and they develop differently. Most differences in children’s numeracy skills are a result of the opportunities they are given to think and talk about number in their home and early learning environments. Children who are provided with opportunities to engage in numeracy activities when they are young are more prepared to face the types of numeracy activities they will encounter in school. This, in turn, means that they will be more likely to succeed not only in math, but academically.

Children enjoy numeracy activities and are highly motivated to work with numbers. They are eager to imitate the counting words used by adults. For instance, children often label their toys with number words before they even know what these words mean. From observing children’s play, it is clear that they are naturally attracted to mathematical features in their environments. For example, they spontaneously compare the size of objects, they use number words often, they make attempts at counting, and they pay attention to characteristics of patterns and shape, including symmetry, when they build towers with blocks.

Toddlers and preschoolers have enormous mathematical potential. Realizing this potential is an important element of school readiness. Quality early learning environments must therefore provide encouragement and opportunities for children to think and talk about numbers and math in ways that connect to the real world that surrounds them.

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