NPR produced a short segment last week on a study that is happening now which compares standard pre-school learning with pre-school focused on mathematics. They found that the average student spends 58 seconds out of a 5 hour pre-school day on mathematics. As you know, here at Social Mathematics, we believe that math is something which should happen everyday. Math shouldn’t be a big mystery that only the “smart” kids can do. So, naturally, I think this program is great!

“We want kids running around the classroom and bumping into mathematics at every turn.”

– Doug Clements, Creator, Building Blocks

Personally, I think the folks at MDRC and Building Blocks are using “Mathematics” as a touchstone for “Logical Thinking”. But maybe the foremost transferable skill that one learns in a mathematics classroom really is logical thinking? Because who remembers how to integrate cos^2(x)sin^2(x)? But hopefully we all remember (assuming that you are one of the lucky few who learned how to do this to begin with!) how to follow an abstract set of instructions and could figure it out if we really needed to.

In this proposed curriculum, the teacher is encouraged to ask “how do you know”. This promotes metacognition, or thinking about thinking. This is one of the most useful skills in advanced mathematics. Not that I think all kindergartners who learn about counting will all become graduate level mathematicians. But rather the complicated act of understanding why you know something is an extremely valuable tool in any field from science to philosophy. The article additionally (see what I did there?) highlights that “explaining your reasoning out loud also develops verbal ability.” So, by inserting verbal questions into the mathy curriculum, even the future humanity majors can benefit.

The NPR article focuses on kindergarten math eduation, but MDRC has a lot of other initiatives too. Since NPC didn’t include a link to MDRC’s website, I’ve included one so you can check out their webpage here.

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About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of socialmathematics.net.