I just attended a conference with Silicon Valley Education
Foundation on **"The Importance
of Early Math: Why Educators Should Care."**

I expected anecdotal or ad hoc data about why kids who
learn their numbers in pre-school can get a leg up and do better in school.
I also expected to be skeptical about all the variables involved given
the mix of cultures, economic status, backgrounds, family units, behavioral
problems, etc. that can all have such a huge impact on a child's learning.

What I found instead, was broad-based research (national)
that took into account these and other variables. In a longitudinal study
from the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES), researchers looked at
mathematics achievement scores for children as they moved from kindergarten to
8th grade. These national data show that children who begin school with
poor math skills typically do not catch up. This may not be earth
shattering news, but there is more.

Studies also have compared social/behavioral measures
(attention, for example) with early reading and math as predictors for success
or failure.

Rating the strengths of four predictors to success
(finishing high school, starting college, and higher employment rate later on),
the following order of effects was found

__Anti-social Attention Reading
Math
__

0 **x** **x**
10 ** x**
20
30
**x**
40

**Math was by far the biggest predictor of success**. The studies found that attention problems and
anti-social behaviors are usually overcome and are not necessarily predictive.

Conversely, these predictors were rated on the effects of *persistent
K-5 problems* on high school dropouts. Results were only slightly
different:

__Attention Reading Anxiety
Anti-Social _______Math___________________

0 **x x
x
x** 10 ** x**
20

**Persistent math difficulties were found to be the major
predictor of high school dropout.**

The comparisons were done also for effects of persistent
problems in these areas on never attending college and on earnings. The
reading and **math problems**
moved ahead of the other factors, but math remained far out in front. In
other words, **actual concrete math skills help kids earn more.**

The take-away here is that, while we have generally
accepted the importance of early literacy -- *parents embrace reading
to their 1-year olds* -- we are not very good at teaching our toddlers
numeracy. In fact, many do not believe it is important. There is no
implicit or explicit instruction for parents or even teachers to prepare kids
from cradle to K in understanding their numbers.

**What is early numeracy?**
Here are the first-grade math skills children need to master for later success
(defined by mastery of 7th grade math skills):

Ø
Numbers represent
different magnitudes (five is bigger than four).

Ø
Number relationships
stay the same, even though numbers may vary. For example, the difference
between 1 and 2 is the same as the difference between 30 and 31.

Ø
Quantities (example 3
stars) can be represented by symbolic figures (the numeral 3)

Ø
Numbers can be broken
into component parts (5 is made up of 2 and 3 or 1 and 4).

So, in order to assure that first graders can master these
skills, we need to start not at pre-k, but pre-pre-k, or three years old.
(This is what Pinecone does).

**What do China and Japan do?** American kids start with a math gap at three years
old. This gap increases by the time they are five. In China and
Japan, there is also a gap at three (although the levels start higher), but
this gap all but disappears by five years old. These countries offer
significant and effective intervention at three years of age and it works.

The US can learn a lot about intervention at pre-pre-k to
pre-k which can link to intervention at pre-k to k. Most adults can teach
their toddlers numbers in fun and creative ways (count the cars, before and
after, Chutes and Ladders). They just need to realize that this is
at least as important if not much more so than teaching them to read.
Both are important.

**Common Core** will raise
the bar and without this awareness and effort in bringing the little ones up to
speed in their numbers, the initial gap will only increase. Fortunately,
with adoption of Common Core, CA now has a *significant budget* for
training teachers and for early learning programs. Policy makers are
looking hard at universal pre-k programs. We can gain a lot of leverage
with relatively little investment in quality pre-k programs and quality
instruction.

Please contact me if you would like further information
about Early Learning, Common Core, research sources, and additional free
learning resources. Of course, we will be glad to show you how Pinecone
effectively teaches students starting at three how to "do the math!"