The early childhood sector is being called on to take a more active role in promoting early numeracy skills after a British education think tank showed that a numeracy achievement gap equivalent to about 8 years of schooling exists between the highest and lowest performing students in the UK.
The Fair Education Alliance showed that this gap is especially harmful to children from poorer backgrounds and has put together a report showcasing early childhood services which are taking direct steps to close the numeracy attainment gap.
According to the Alliance early childhood settings working effectively to close the numeracy attainment gap in England are:
- Developing strong leadership of maths; leaders with a good knowledge and understanding of maths and maths teaching and learning
- Raising the profile of maths by bringing it into all activities
- Adapting the physical environment to focus on numeracy
- Developing children's concept of 'number'
- Building practitioner confidence and skills through focused CPD; enhanced through action research/individual projects
- Providing time for staff to plan together
- Giving children immediate feedback
- Teaching maths through a 'real-life' context, developed through theme work and games
- Engaging children in maths problem solving or enquiry as soon as they arrive in the mornings
- Talking to and listening to children, which enables them to know the children better - their strengths, areas for development and the things they enjoy
- Closely monitoring and assessing children
The report, which includes a number of useful case studies from the early childhood sector, also highlights the importance of a nation-wide approach to early numeracy achievement and greater support for carers in assessing and supporting children with early maths.
The ever-important link to parental engagement was also highlighted, with the evidence showing a clear link between high levels of parental engagement and greater outcomes for children. While early education and care providers already have plenty on their plates, the report encourages providers to have a focused approach to boosting parental engagement.
This is the same for transition to primary school, the authors claim that a consistent approach to numeracy from the early years through to primary education would support children's understanding and further development.