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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Kids can learn a lot more math -- and have fun -- in kindergarten

Kindergarten math may be too easy, writes Holley Korbey for the Hechinger Report. The focus is on reading. Math expectations are low.


Two kindergarten students at Hilltop Elementary in Aston, Pennsylvania., play a guess-the-number game with different colored counters. Credit: Holly Korbey for The Hechinger Report

In a Philadelphia suburb, Jodie Murphy’s kindergarten students are learning how to manipulate numbers and quantities in different ways, reports Korbey. The Chichester School District has adopted SpringMath to improve very low math achievement.


Kindergarten math proficiency predicts "academic success in all subjects including reading," writes Korbey. But often, math is not the primary focus, and students don't move beyond basic counting and shapes.


Kindergarteners can learn to break numbers apart and put them back together, says Amanda VanDerHeyden, founder of SpringMath. They can understand abstract numbers, such as "understanding that the number 3 is a symbol for three objects."


Murphy calls SpringMath “math games,” and refers to timed fluency tests as “math races,” writes Korbey. “We can do all these little things so they’re having fun while they’re learning,” the teacher says.


Children can enjoy learning math, if lessons are designed with kids in mind, argues John Mighton, the founder of JUMP Math. “Children love repetition, exploring small variations on a theme and incrementally harder challenges much more than adults do.”


Many elementary teachers don't have access to high-quality instructional materials, so they go online to find supplemental teaching materials, Korbey writes.


That means pre-K math may not align with what's taught in kindergarten, and kindergarten math may not align with first grade, says Mimi Engel, a University of Colorado Boulder associate professor who's studying New York City schools.

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May 06

Duh. Sig Engelmann was showing us what young kids could do way back in the mid-60's.


Ann in L.A.

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