Promising Math

Promising Math 2017 was the first in a biennial conference bringing together stakeholders from across the country to share knowledge about the understanding, teaching, and learning of mathematics for children between birth and eight years.

Over 80 professionals from across the country gathered at Erikson Institute. We welcomed experts in intervention and teaching, scholars in early mathematics, policymakers and government representatives, experts in dual language learning, adult educators and scholars in teacher preparation, cognitive developmental scientists, teachers of young children, and of course, parents.

Dates and Location

October 13-14, 2017
Chicago, Illinois

Goals and Vision

The goals of this conference are:

  1. To build coherence in math education across the birth to 3rd grade span in the United States;
  2. To provide a forum for discussing new findings from research, recent trends in the field, and the connections between them; and
  3. To build networks of researchers and practitioners who will work together to inform and improve policy and practice.

Each conference will center on a focal topic, which will allow all participants to share, analyze, and plan collaborative work around substantive issues in the field of early mathematics.

2017 Focus

Fostering access to mathematics for children who are English Language Learners (ELLs)

Given our increasing awareness of the importance of early math education, and the growing population of families with young children from diverse language backgrounds, it is imperative that we get a better, more informed perspective on this topic.

2017 Major Questions Addressing Access to Math for Young English Language Learners

Cognitive: How do children construct a foundational understanding of mathematics, from birth to age 8?

  • What difference does learning English as another language in preschool make in the development of very early math concepts?
  • How often do children have math knowledge they can express in their home language but not in English?
  • How well does the ability to express a solid understanding of early math concepts in a home language transfer to the learning of math symbols and arithmetic in kindergarten and first grade?

Contextual: What kind of mathematical interactions do and should young children experience at school and at home?

  • What are the most effective non-verbal math representations to help young English learners when math is taught in English?
  • Do different approaches to teaching English Language Learners, such as dual immersion, transitional bi-lingual, and English immersion, have differential effects on math learning?
  • How does parental engagement in “math talk” in a child’s home language relate to her ability to learn about math in English?

Collaborative: What are proven highly effective ways to work with families and teachers to provide access to mathematics for young children?

  • How can we better prepare teachers of young children to teach math to children whose home language is not English?
  • What can we do to help non-English-speaking parents help their children to learn mathematics?
  • How should math professional development be tailored to meet the needs of teachers’ aides and assistants, who are sometimes the only adults in the classroom who speak the child’s home language?

2017 Featured Plenary Speakers

Sylvia Celadón-Pattichis is a Professor of Bilingual and ESL at the University of New Mexico. She will describe her study of teaching and opportunities to learn in bi-lingual kindergarten and first grade classrooms.

Barbara Sarnecka is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California at Irvine. She will discuss her analysis of early number knowledge among dual-language learners from low-SES households.

Rodrigo Gutiérrez is the Co-Director of the Center for Recruitment and Retention of Mathematics Teachers (CRR) at the University of Arizona. Galina (Halla) Jmourko is an ESOL Instructional Coach at the Prince George County Public Schools in Maryland. They will discuss their shared work related to the integration of English learning, language, and culture with mathematics instruction.


The conference is generously funded by a grant from the CME Group Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation.