It is increasingly clear that, well before they begin formal schooling, very young children naturally learn and apply math concepts such as counting, comparison and causality. Research indicates that math competency is a strong predictor of later academic outcomes. Unfortunately, it also indicates that math achievement gaps appear at an early age; children from low-income families or minority communities, and those who are learning English, tend to have poorer math skills at kindergarten entry. According to an Issue Brief: Developing Math Skills in Early Childhood. Mathematica, "These factors suggest that improving the long-term outcomes for all children may depend on exposing them to early math concepts before they enter school." Alabama is tied for the fourth highest rate of childhood poverty among U.S. states; based on 2016 data, 25 percent of children lived in families with income below the federal poverty level. Eighth grade students in Alabama have the third lowest rate of math proficiency in the country based on 2017 NAEP data (Kids Count Data Book).
In a new initiative, Early Math/Books Count, Reach Out and Read-Alabama providers will incorporate these concepts into all 18 months - 5 years of age checkups by discussing the importance of math with parents; encouraging them to engage in "math talk,” particularly when sharing books with their child; and prescribe developmentally, linguistically and culturally appropriate books for doing so at home. Providers will also model "math talk" during the checkup, ie. using the book's illustrations to count by pointing. As with the Reach Out and Read model, all interventions promote positive parent-child engagement which offers the parent/caregiver an additional way of interacting their child by encouraging the child to develop warm, loving associations with math.
With the help of a two-year $60,000 grant from the Daniel Foundation, Reach Out and Read-Alabama providers will have the tools they need to help parents “de-mystify” the long-held belief that math is a hard subject for most children.