New report on mathematics in the early years aims to help tackle the crisis of low mathematics achievement in South Africa

Much more than countingA new report on mathematics teaching and learning for preschoolers in South Africa has been published. Much More Than Counting: Supporting mathematics development between birth and five years explores the purpose and nature of mathematics learning during the early years and sets out a framework for delivery in preschools and homes.

The report was written by Cally Kuhne from the University of Cape Town’s Schools Development Unit and Shelley O’Carroll, Brigid Comrie and Rebecca Hickman from Wordworks. It was funded by the DG Murray Trust, following the successful publication last year of Wordworks’ Narrowing the Literacy Gap report, which focused on language and literacy development in the early years.

The launch of Much More Than Counting coincides with growing concern in South Africa about the persistently poor performance of our children in mathematics. The authors argue that part of the solution is ensuring that the right foundations for learning are laid in the period before children begin formal schooling.

Cally Kuhne commented, “Historically, the purpose and importance of mathematics learning in the early years has not been properly understood or valued in South Africa. This is in part because there is a lack of a general understanding about how mathematical ideas and skills are developed between birth and five years. We wanted to help fill this knowledge gap by producing a report that explains early maths concepts in straightforward terms, and sets out the kinds of simple activities and methods that preschool teachers and parents can use to support learning.”

The report stresses the importance of access to learning opportunities in the years before formal schooling.   Shelley O’Carroll said, “It’s important to understand that we’re not talking about formal teaching or sitting children in rows to teach them maths during these early years. The types of activities that we describe should be a part of everyday life. Most do not require specialist resources and can be delivered as easily in homes as they can in preschools. Parents have a vital role to play, and we hope that this report will help to empower them to support the early maths learning of their children.”

Much More Than Counting outlines ways in which young children learn mathematics and explains the various mathematics strands for the early years. Learning milestones and practical activities are set out for the different age groups. The report is aimed at all those involved in the Early Childhood Development sphere and anyone who is concerned about mathematics education. It will be a particularly useful resource for ECD practitioners, trainers and planners, as well as parents, carers and home visitors.

You can read the full report here.

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