THE M OF STEM IS FOR MATHEMATICS
When children have a strongly internalised understanding of numbers before beginning kindergarten, they are far more likely to demonstrate long-term proficiency not only in mathematics but also in literacy over their academic lives.
Demonstrating strong math skills at an early age is a strong indicator of developing conceptual thinking skills and predicts long- term success in school, not just in later math learning but also in later reading proficiency. Longitudinal research demonstrates that foundational mathematical understanding—more than any other content area—predicts long-term success on school achievement measures.
When children have a strongly internalised understanding of numbers before beginning kindergarten, they are far more likely to demonstrate long-term proficiency not only in mathematics but also in literacy over their academic lives. Interestingly, the inverse is not true: children’s foundational literacy predicts long-term proficiency with reading but is not correlated to long-term achievement in mathematics.
Research points to two specific skills, known as ordinality and subitization. Children who have foundational understanding of “ordinality” grasp that the words for numbers represent quantity and that quantity is fixed (e.g. four is always more than three). These children do not simply recite numbers in order; they understand quantity at a conceptual level and can use word representations of numbers to describe and compare.
Children who are adept at “subitization” are able to see small quantities and know what the number is without counting. That is, when a four year old conceptually grasps that the word “five” represents a quantity that is more than four and less than six; when he understands that you may have four oranges or four pens and these represent the same quantity; and when he can quickly see a grouping of three children or roll a dice and know, without counting, that he gets to move forward three in the game, then this child has a strong foundational mathematical understanding.
He is more likely to thrive academically, read fluently by third grade, and master key algebraic concepts before high school, putting him on the predictive pathway to college.