What is Early Math?

We believe that you have to understand what you are teaching to teach for understanding.

Because of this, we believe that teachers and caregivers must understand what early math is, as well as understand precursor concepts that lead to mathematical thinking. It isn’t just counting and it isn’t just rote memorization of shape names.

We define early math by Early Math Topics and Precursor Topics. These topics organize the concepts and ideas that teachers of young children need to know in order to support the development of mathematical thinking from birth to eight years.

Early Math Topics

We outline nine topics of early math. These topics reflect the scope of mathematics for young children and beyond. They also reflect our own teaching and research, and provide the organizing structure for our book Big Ideas in Early Mathematics. Each topic includes several Big Ideas, key mathematical concepts that lay the foundation for lifelong learning and thinking.


Precursor Topics

Based on work with the youngest children (infants, toddlers and two-year-olds), we have identified four main topics that caregivers can highlight as they care for, play with, and talk with children. Each topic includes Precursor Concepts, which are key to priming children to be more receptive as true mathematical thinking begins in later years.