Early Math

Some research suggests that early math skills may be a stronger predictor of student’s future success than any other learning outcome. But, in many states, schools have struggled to prepare early learners to succeed in mathematics, and large achievement gaps persist between students of different classes and ethnicities.

"Early math" generally includes any formal or informal mathematics instruction or learning for children from birth to age 8, when they begin to conceptualize what numbers are and how to use them and develop motivations and beliefs about their own math abilities. Early math is important, according to researchers1, because:

  • Math skills at entry into kindergarten are important because children who do well in math early on tend to do very well throughout school.
  • Early math skills are more strongly linked to later reading skills than are early reading skills.
  • Students’ growth in math skills across the very early years of formal schooling (from preschool to late 1st grade) is strongly correlated to their later achievement.

A long-time funder of efforts in California to improve early learning outcomes, the Heising-Simons Foundation asked Education First in 2019 to prepare a series of research projects that map challenges and opportunities for improving early math, examine ways of better engaging parents as partners, and identify and describe promising initiatives to strengthen math foundations for young learners.

While designed to inform ideas and activities in California specifically, these resources can support policymakers, education leaders and funders in states and communities around the country working in their own ways to improve early math learning and outcomes.


1 See DREME Network (2019, ) EdSource (2013), Fine Motor Skills and Early Comprehension of the World: Two New School Readiness Indicators (2010), and School Readiness and Later Achievement (2007).