Why learn STEM in Preschool
According to the Children’s Learning Research Collaborative at The Ohio State University, “Mathematics and science learning is critical during the early childhood years, and has long-term associations with school readiness and continued academic achievement.” “Contrary to past thoughts, recent investigations show that preschoolers are capable and eager to learn mathematics and science concepts, serving as an important precursor for later academic achievements. Young children are curious about the world and ask questions, and talk about both science and mathematics before they enter school. With respect to mathematics, in particular, infants understand fundamental concepts, such as more and less, and during the preschool years, they begin counting, adding and subtracting, and using spatial concepts which are indicative of continued mathematics learning as well as later literacy abilities.
Several studies suggest that providing preschoolers with a solid foundation of basic mathematics skills facilitates mastery of new, developing skills, and the fine-tuning of already existing ones. With respect to science, young children demonstrate the capacity for learning basic science knowledge, such as observing and investigating highlighting that young children should learn eight ‘process skills,’ including observing, describing, comparing, questioning, predicting, experimenting, reflecting, and cooperating, before entering school, which are critical for continued academic success.”
This converging evidence that preschool children can and should learn about Mathematics and science is reflected in updated early learning standards. For instance, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, and the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) published a joint position statement which emphasized the need for effective, high-quality mathematics education for children between the ages of three and six (NAEYC and NCTM, 2010). In addition to such national standards, some individual states have created their own mathematics and science learning standards. One example is the State of Ohio, the state in which the current investigation was conducted. Ohio’s early learning mathematics standards highlight number, number sense, and operations; measurement; geometry and spatial sense; algebra and patterning; and data analysis. Science-related standards include three main content areas (life science, physical science, and earth/space science) as well as expectations that preschoolers learn critical thinking skills commensurate with the process skills set forth in the extant literature. These standards encourage preschool teachers to provide more mathematics learning opportunities than counting and shapes and to expand science learning beyond weather and plants. Taken together, these states and national standards emphasize the importance of teaching preschoolers about mathematics and science with the expectation that they enter kindergarten with the skills and knowledge necessary for academic success.”