Early Math in Washington

Counting out fruit and vegetables at the grocery store. Talking about the shape of the wheels on the bus. Asking, “Are you growing bigger and taller?” These actions by caregivers are the building blocks of numeracy skills.

“Numeracy” is a term that refers to all the math that young students learn, including number, operations, and geometry and measurement concepts.

Research has shown that children are capable of learning math concepts at a much earlier age than has been previously recognized, and that children’s mastery of early math concepts by the time they enter kindergarten is the strongest predictor of future academic success.

Opportunity Gap

But in Washington state, we know that not all kids have the opportunity to learn these concepts before they come to school. Our state’s kindergarten entry assessment, Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), shows that math is the area of greatest challenge.

  • About half of entering kindergartners demonstrate the expected math skills for their age
  • Children of color experience an opportunity gap in math, and they’re less likely than their white peers to enter kindergarten with the expected skills

Supporting Families and Providers

We already know that making counting, shapes and measurement part of children’s everyday experiences will help them develop the numeracy skills expected to enter kindergarten with the expected numeracy skills. While there is no one model or curriculum that is best for all families and environments, offering science-based tips for caregivers and resource-rich trainings for providers have been effective strategies in some Washington communities.

The state’s Early Learning Regional Coalitions offer the following ideas, based on their successful engagement strategies, to focus on early math in the materials and services offered to families: