Maths Memos

The NEW Early Childhood Maths Group

 

When ACME extended its remit for mathematics education policy from 5-19 to 3-19 years, we set out to identify the key issues from stakeholders. We quickly became aware that this was not a simple task, due to the complexity of the early years mathematics landscape and the diversity of policy issues affecting educators in different contexts. It also quickly became clear that the mathematicss education and the early years communities needed to join up: we learned there were lots of great initiatives and resources, but we all had significant gaps in our knowledge of what was available.

However, there was one issue everyone agreed on: they were concerned about the state of early mathematics education in England, as an area of comparative neglect. When ACME assembled a roundtable, it included an impressive collection of representatives, from the Department for Education, Ofsted, all the major early years organisations concerned with childminders, playgroups and nurseries, the maths associations, NCETM and Nrich, as well as individual teachers , teacher educators and professional development providers.

Following the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)'s  recommendations, we suggested that the curriculum, research, professional development and parents might be key issues. Whereas the APPG had agreed on the need to revise the curriculum to focus on number sense, the roundtable were strongly divided, arguing against change. There also seemed to be key differences about pedagogy, with some wanting more maths focused activity and others wanting more free play, echoing the divisions highlighted in Ofsted's (2015) report  Teaching and play in the early years - a balancing act? However, everyone was agreed that a major issue was a general lack of confidence about maths in the early years workforce and the need for professional development. Resources and guidance were not lacking, but there was a lack of policy and direction regarding these.

We are now delighted that, following more meetings, we have a webpage which recommends key resources, as an official one-stop shop for early years maths. Foundation Years is supported by the government and the webpage was developed by the charity 4children who hosted it. The Top Ten Lists include online resources and professional books as well as ideas for stories, rhymes and collections of things for young children including babies and toddlers. Deceptively simple, this site provides easy access to practical ideas and professional development. We hope the lists will be added to and also spark some debate, as prioritizing a 'top ten' obviously reveals bias and notable omissions! An exciting feature is the list of sites in other countries, including the US Erikson site with early maths videos and the New Zealand site including maths picture books.

Professional development, our other agreed focus, is a harder nut to crack, with issues about funding, qualifications levels and lack of accreditation, as well as the differing priorities of educators such as childminders and reception teachers. Again, there is a wealth of initiatives, not all well known, including the NDNA's Maths Champions, the  REAM project with parents and developments in the maths hubs. There is work to be done in publicizing these and promoting a joined up approach to maths professional development to create a more maths positive and informed workforce.

We hope to continue to work to develop early maths education through the newly reformed Early Childhood Maths Group, which will have its first meeting at the University of Leicester on Friday 18th November. This will bring together interested parties in an independent organization, joining up the early childhood and maths education communities, to promote the resolution of current issues and provide a one-stop shop for policy makers regarding early maths education.

Please contact S.Gifford@roehampton.ac.uk if you are interested in joining the Early Childhood Maths Group.

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