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Why is mathematics important for preschoolers?

Children begin constructing the foundations of mathematics in the first few months. Here's why mathematics is important for preschoolers.

Twenty years ago, hardly any preschool (or parents) paid attention to mathematics as a subject for preschoolers. In 1998, just 4% of American children entering preschool could add or subtract. Now, 25 years later, the aim is to have 100% of children possess these skills. So, why has this changed so drastically?

Mathematical knowledge begins during infancy and undergoes extensive development over the first five years of life. It is just as natural for young children to think mathematically as it is for them to use language, because “humans are born with a fundamental sense of quantity” (Geary, 1994), as well as “spatial sense, a propensity to search for patterns, and so forth” (Clements, Sarama, DiBiase, 2004).


The earliest phase of developing mathematical abilities is called ‘Emergent Mathematics’ – and this is hardly a ‘good to have’, but a ‘must have’ amongst the skill sets taught to a preschooler.

As early as it may seem, even within the first few months of a child’s life she begins to construct the foundations of math. In fact, Professor Greg Duncan of the University of California at Irvine goes as far as to say that “Early academic skills appear to be the strongest predictor of subsequent scholastic success – early math skills more so than early reading skills.”

The research goes on to predict that K-5 students with persistently low math skills were much less likely to graduate from high school or attend college.

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