October 18, 2012: Louis Freedberg, executive director of EdSource, filed a story this morning based on a report presented by EdSource at the California STEM Summit 2012 held earlier this week in San Diego.
The report, focusing on the lack of math training in the education of preschool teachers, included the results of months of research and interviews with leading early education professionals. Freedberg says that EdSource will continue to research and report on this subject, publishing in ovember, "... a more in-depth report on the policy and practical challenges of implementing an effective math curriculum at a preschool level."
An excerpt [Freeberg's full story includes references and links to the STEM program, the CORE curriculum requirements for preschool, past research on the critical need for preschool math education; we recommend reading the article in its entirety here]:
...Susan Wood, director of the California Institute of Technology’s Children’s Center in Pasadena, which has a math and science focus, described math preparation in the permitting process as “terrible” and “non-existent.” Asked how much emphasis her college places on math instruction, Janice Townsend, an instructor on the Child Development faculty at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, answered, “Probably not enough.”
Erin Freschi, program services administrator for First 5 Alameda, said that typically the courses that students in Early Childhood Education community college programs take will include content on teaching math, but the amount varies depending on the instructor and is usually very limited.
In California, all preschool teachers and associate teachers are required obtain a “Child Development Permit” (rather than a teaching credential as required for K-12 teachers). To receive their permits, teachers must take 16 units in academic courses, including one each in English, math or science, social sciences, and humanities or fine arts. But they can bypass math by taking a science class instead.
Once they have completed their academic studies, they must then enroll in an early childhood education program to take 24 units, or eight courses, in early childhood education and child development. Typically math does not figure prominently in these courses.
As a result, unless students choose to take math as part of their math and science “general education” requirement, they can get their teaching permits without having to take even one math course.
Ada Hand, president of the California Kindergarten Association, noted that preschool staff need to know less about formal math instruction, but more about how to promote active, hands-on learning, providing objects to manipulate, along with games, blocks, and puzzles, enabling children to have a rich dialog with peers and adults.
Rather, the goal for teachers is to integrate basic math concepts into everyday activities, such as counting the number of steps from the classroom to the playground, or looking at a spider during recess and counting the number of legs it has. As Veronica Ufoegbune, director of the Woodstock Child Development Centers in Alameda, said, “People forget that math is a daily experience; it is part of everything you do.”
For teachers who have already obtained their permit, there is left the crucial task of providing follow-up training and professional development opportunities. Peggy Nguyen, Early Childhood Coordinator in the Newport-Mesa School District, said such training has been her program’s “biggest struggle.”
Elaine Coggins, director of Early Childhood Education in the Anaheim City School District, which serves some 1200 children in 17 different sites, noted that there is a plethora of preschool math-focused curriculum materials. The bigger challenge, she said, “is really teaching teachers how to use the materials.”...