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TC's Ginsburg and Kagan Contribute to Major National Report on Math Education
Two Teachers College faculty members, Sharon Lynn Kagan and Herbert P. Ginsburg, were part of a team of academics responsible for a National Research Council study that found that preschoolers - particularly those in low-income groups - need more and better instruction in math.
Consensus among educators has been that very young children can’t learn math. But the study, released Thursday by the National Research Council, finds the amount of time devoted to mathematics needs to be increased in all public and private preschool settings, especially those that serve low-income children. The report says a major national initiative is needed to improve early childhood mathematics education.
Opportunities for preschoolers to learn mathematics are currently inadequate, particularly for those in low-income groups, says the report, which is targeted to Head Start, state-funded preschool programs, curriculum developers and teachers.
"Young children have a keen interest in learning about everything in their environment. That naturally translates into becoming competent in mathematics, but right now most children's potential is not being realized because we have not given parents, educators and caregivers the tools that they need to build on that interest," said Christopher T. Cross, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and chairman of Cross & Joftus LLC, an education-policy consulting firm.
"Evidence shows that early success in math is linked to later success in both math and reading,” Cross said. “Given the increasing importance of science and technology in everyday life and for gaining entry into many careers, it's crucial that we give all children a strong foundation in math and that we start many years before they enter formal schooling."
Opportunities to receive high-quality math instruction are especially important for low-income children, the committee said, urging implementation of the report's recommendations by Head Start and other publicly funded programs. Children from low-income families, on average, demonstrate lower levels of competence in math prior to entering school, and these gaps persist or widen as schooling continues. Providing these children with high-quality mathematics instruction early on can provide a foundation for future learning and can help address long-term systematic inequities in educational outcomes.
The report was sponsored by the Office of Head Start and Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are independent, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under an 1863 congressional charter.
Copies of Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information, 202-334-2138; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To view more information about Herbert Ginsburg, go to http://bit.ly/PKLxu. For more information about Sharon Lynn Kagan, go to http://bit.ly/11ev2n.
Published Thursday, Jul. 2, 2009