Thanks to Sara Mead at Early Ed Watch for alerting me to a fascinating article on math education for young children by Herb Ginsburg of Teachers College and colleagues published by the Society for Research in Child Development. Ginsburg is well known in early ed circles for his research in this area and this article pulls a lot together–the math understandings children develop and use naturally, the lack of training pre-k teachers receive in how to build on that knowledge, the fact that many in early ed resist the idea that math skills and knowledge can be taught in developmentally appropriate ways and much more. So much of the talk about education up to grade three focuses on socialization, dispositions toward learning and on preliteracy skills and knowledge. This article convincingly shows that math should be on the table as well, and not just in the form of giving kids blocks to play with (geometry!) or pieces of macaroni to glue on paper in the shape of numbers (hands on!). But the article also is blunt about the obstacles, one of which is resistance to the idea that teachers should “engage in deliberate and planned instruction, an activity some think is developmentally inappropriate.”
For journalists, it would make a great feature story to find a pre-kindergarten or a K-2 class where good, developmentally appropriate, content rich math education is occurring. This article (and interviewing Ginsburg) provides a sense of what to look for. Also in this newsletter are commentaries on math education by two other great sources for journalists on teaching and learning in pre-K-grade 3 classrooms: Deborah Stipek, dean at the Stanford ed school and Robert Pianta, dean of the ed school at the University of Virginia.
Bridget Gutierrez, who is writing the Get Schooled blog on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, noted that although kindergarten is offered in public school systems all around Atlanta and the state provides free pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, a third of children get to first grade without having attended either one. Gutierrez was commenting on legislative proposal to lower age of mandatory education to five.
The Get Schooled blog gets lots and lots of traffic. This entry had 64 comments. Many along the lines of “the government is taking away our children” or “destroying families” and lots of use of the word “indoctrination.” Somehow I suspect that those who worry about such things are not exactly spending a lot of time talking to their kids, nurturing them, playing with them.