Series: About the Collaborative

Collaboration with the Ounce Highlights Math Development in Children Ages 0-3

Reading a “touch-and-feel” book or singing an action song with a baby or toddler is setting the groundwork for mathematical thinking and future school success. That’s the point of Math All Around Me (MAAM), a joint program between Early Math Collaborative and the Ounce of Prevention Fund, established to study the math capabilities of children ages 0-3.

As the title might suggest, this program is not about flashcards; rather, the aim is to help child care workers deepen their understanding of how math in the school years depends on creating habits of mind from early infancy. When children interact with a page in their favorite touch-and-feel book, they are developing the understanding that everything we perceive with our senses has many different attributes and that these attributes can be named.

That kind of sorting and precise categorization develops rapidly from birth on. It starts with general groups—same and different, like and don’t like—and grows more complicated from there.

As any parent or grandparent can tell you, by the time they are one, children have quite precise ideas about the attributes they approve and desire, as well as a specific list of people, food, toys, and books that have those attributes. As children develop the language and understandings they need to make sense of the world around them, they are developing the precision and logical thinking that characterizes mathematics.

Erikson’s Jie-Qi Chen and Mary Hynes-Berry explain that attributes and comparison are precursor concepts of mathematical thinking; that is, these concepts are the ground on which foundational mathematical understanding is built. In the fall of 2015 they will continue to work with over 80 Chicago caregivers to explore two other concepts they see as precursors: pattern and change.

“It’s so exciting to do this work,