Can babies really learn mathematics? It's a good question, and state-backed research aims to find out. Inside the infant room at the Lighthouse for Children in Fresno, California, teacher Brittany Montelongo is teaching 1-year-old Peyton math while changing his diaper. In the past, Montelongo used to think, "Oh, we can't do math unless we're sitting down and literally showing them one, two, three, four, five." That was before the Lighthouse Child Development Center became the California Early Math Initiative's demonstration site.
The California Early Math Initiative is a pilot project launched to reinforce the confidence of child care providers, early childhood educators, and elementary school teachers in their abilities to teach the basics of math and science to very young students. Research has shown that preschool math skills are strong predictors of later school success and scores into high school. The big problem is that, overall, California students are not reaching math standards.
Carolyn Pfister, an education administrator for the State Board of Education who helped oversee the Fresno project, said, "It's very apparent in the research there's a lot of math anxiety, both in homes and among teachers. We realized that for many young children, their exposure to meaningful math in preschool and in the early grades was really limited. And we also knew that parents felt that they were more than happy to step up and help with reading but were a lot more reluctant to do so with math."
During the last two decades, studies in this field have revealed that children are ready very early to think in a mathematical way, learn mathematical concepts, and solve logic and math problems. The purpose of the California Early Math Initiative is to support not only the educators but also the parents in making them more confident in their very important early math teaching skills.
Picture: Child & Mother, by Fritz Zuber-Bühler (Wikimedia Commons)