Which preschool math competencies are most important for later math achievement? A study in Early Childhood Research Quarterly attempts to answer this question for low-income and minority children.
The research looked at 781 children who completed the Research-based Early Mathematics Assessment (REMA) in preschool and a further math assessment in fifth grade. The children came from diverse classrooms in New York and Boston, with 53% of the children African-American and 83% qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.
Using state-defined preschool mathematics standards documents, the researchers classified the REMA into a number of domains of mathematical knowledge:
- Counting and cardinality – basic counting (rote counting, number recognition, one-to-one correspondence) and advanced counting (cardinality, counting forward and back)
- Patterning – extend and duplicate patterns
- Geometry – identify, compare, and compose shapes
- Measurement and data – recognize shapes and identify their attributes by measurement
It was found that:
- All the domains were significantly predictive of later achievement, suggesting that children rely on multiple domains of early knowledge when developing later skills.
- However, counting and numeracy skills, particularly advanced counting skills, were most predictive of later achievement.
- Early numeracy was predictive of later mathematics achievement while also controlling measurement and data, geometry, and patterning.
This suggests that, at least for this group of children, early numeracy was the most predictive of later mathematics ability.
Source: Nguyen, T., Watts, T. W., Duncan, G. J., Clements, D. H., Sarama, J. S., Wolfe, C., & Spitler, M. E. (2016). Which preschool mathematics competencies are most predictive of fifth grade achievement? Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 36, 550–560.