Teaching the teachers: Early math resources for teacher educators
By Dr. Megan L. Franke, UCLA
Recent media attention has shined a spotlight on the importance of early childhood education. We know that children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences. We also know that the training and professional development of teachers is an important effectiveness factor present in the most successful preschool programs. Providing opportunities for preschool teachers to learn about the teaching of mathematics is critical both as they prepare and as they continue to teach.
The important role of teacher educators
Teacher educators like myself play a critical role in influencing the quality of early learning experiences. We work to prepare and equip the teachers who interact with young children each day. Yet knowing how best to support preschool teachers in their development as professionals can be challenging. We often need to figure out on our own what to do and how to do it, searching for materials, piecing together resources, and experimenting with methods.
As a mathematics educator, I’m especially attuned to the need for quality resources for the teaching and learning of mathematics. How can a teacher educator best support teachers in engaging their young students around mathematics in ways that build on children’s strengths and interests? How can we help teachers develop mathematical learning opportunities that are based in students’ ongoing activity? And how do we prepare teachers to create mathematically rich classroom spaces that support children’s mathematical development?
DREME TE: Research-based, flexible, easy to use
Our team of DREME network members and affiliates have drawn upon research and our own experience to create activities that support preschool teacher learning. Many of these materials are currently staples of our own preschool curriculum courses and professional development institutes.
DREME TE is designed to be flexible and easy to use. Appropriate for both prospective and practicing teachers, these resources can be used in a variety of settings, from a professional development workshop to part of a general preservice methods course. Teacher educators can pick and choose resources to complement their existing needs.
DREME TE resources
Below are links to a sampling of available resources. I encourage you to explore the DREME TE website and visit often, as we continue to add new materials.
- Practicing the Mathematical Practices is a handout that connects the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice to the development of mathematical understanding in young children.
- Overview of Formative Assessments describes the different ways in which we can keep track of children’s developing mathematical understanding.
- Counting for Adults is an activity to use with teachers to help them experience the complexities of learning to count (by doing so in a different language!).
- What Children Know and Need to Learn about Shape and Space is an in-depth resource for teacher educators and teachers describing the geometry and spatial relations we hope young children will learn.
- “When is a Triangle a Triangle?” Activity provides ideas for teacher educators to engage their participants around a vignette that helps them explore their fears and anxieties about teaching geometry.
- Anna Counts is a video resource of a young child counting from one to 99, including commentary that helps the viewer understand the complexities of counting for young children. You can also see how a teacher educator uses this video to support learning in a preservice setting.
- Inservice: One Session on Spatial Relations is an example from our “Getting Started” scenarios that provide ideas of how to use the various resources for a specific purpose.
I think of DREME TE as the beginning of the conversation. My hope is that teacher educators will find these resources helpful, and will use them and share them in ways that best meet the needs of their participants.
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Megan L. Franke is a member of the DREME Network and a professor at University of California, Los Angeles. Her research focuses on understanding and supporting teacher learning. She is particularly interested in how teaching mathematics with attention to students and their mathematical thinking can create opportunities for low-income students of color to learn mathematics with understanding. Dr. Franke is the co-author of Young Children’s Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction in Early Childhood Education.
In addition to Dr. Franke, the DREME TE team includes Herbert Ginsburg (Columbia University), Linda Platas (San Francisco State University), Deborah Stipek (Stanford University), and Angela Chan Turrou (University of California, Los Angeles).