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PreK Math: What Does Early Numeracy Look Like?

People have some pretty strong feelings about what PreK math and even Kindergarten math should look like. How do we help young children develop important mathematical understandings while still incorporating exploration and play?

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Texas recently updated its Prekindergarten Guidelines, and they will be implemented during the 2023/2024 school year. The Guidelines lay out both PK3 and PK4 outcomes, and they were rewritten to better align with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS), specifically to better support the Kindergarten standards. If your state/district/school doesn’t have PreK standards, the Texas version is worth a look. The document is also a good resource for parents.

It’s worth noting that the Guidelines are prefaced with a description of the PreK learning environment and explain, in no uncertain terms, that “Abstract symbols, no matter how carefully designed or simplified, cannot involve the child’s senses the way real materials can.” Let me translate—3- and 4-year-olds should not be experiencing math through the use of worksheets or workbooks. The Guidelines even include a brief description of the CRA sequence of instruction. I find that a graphic helps, so here’s one I created.

CRA prek math


The Math domain is divided into five skills: number sense, joining and separating, geometry and spatial sense, measurement, and classification and patterns. The document is organized so that for each skill (e.g., number sense) there is a general description of the skill and suggestions for the ideal environment followed by a number of PK3 and PK4 outcomes (e.g., PK3 Child rote counts from 1 to 10, PK4 Child rote counts from 1-30.) and child behaviors for that outcome (e.g., recite poems, fingerplay or songs that use words to count from 1 to 10; recite number words in order up to 30; demonstrate counting sequences from 1 – 30 using puppets, counters, or other manipulatives). It’s a well-organized, informative document that I think would be a great resource for any adults working with young children. Reading through the outcomes reminded me a lot of Kathy Richardson’s book, How Children Learn Number Concepts, another great resource.

Since the PreK guidelines are designed to support Kindergarten standards, it’s not surprising that the PreK outcomes and activities resemble those in Kindergarten, just using smaller numbers. For example, the Guidelines suggest using “beads on a bracelet” to support a child’s beginning understanding that numbers can by composed and decomposed in various ways. Check out this post for more information on number bracelets.

Number-Bracelets-5.jpg (448×150)

Another task often used in Kindergarten that is described in the PreK Guidelines is Shake and Spill. Children shake and spill a number of counters, or pom poms, or other items and count the two groups comprising the total. In this Quack Attack version, 4 fell on the duck and 2 fell off. Four and two make six.

Grab your own copy of Quack Attack here. And here’s the link again to download the PreK Guidelines.

I’d love to hear your thoughts/experiences with PreK math either here in the comments or on Twitter!

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