Early Math Skills Prove Pivotal

Posted at: 03/26/2013 7:58 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- New research suggests building children’s math skills early in life is more important than previously thought.

A new study of 180 seventh graders showed that students who struggled with math in middle school were the same students who had difficulty in first grade.

Experts say this is yet more evidence that what students learn at a young age can shape how they learn as they grow.

This year marks the first time Brownsdale Elementary School has switched to an all-day, five-day-a-week system for its kindergarten classes, and teachers say it's already paying off.

“This is the first year we've been able to do that and I have seen significant gains and growth just coming every day with the kids,” said kindergarten teacher Colleen Fish.

Teachers said the added classroom time means students are able to fully develop the necessary skills needed to be successful.

“We do skip counting, counting by twos, counting by tens, so a lot of the standards,” Fish said. “If they don't have that foundation coming into kindergarten, it's very hard for them to be successful in first grade."

And it's that early childhood development that both educators and lawmakers are focused on.

Governor Mark Dayton said he wants to increase funding for early education by offering nearly 44 million dollars in pre-kindergarten scholarships over the next two years.

“This will put families with the dollars that they need to be able to afford having their child ready for kindergarten," said Minnesota’s Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius,.

Minnesota still has one of the nation's largest achievement gaps between white and minority students, and education officials said much of that difference can be traced back to a lack of early education options for some students.

“We want to close those opportunity gaps between kids who have opportunity and the kids who don't have opportunities for high quality ‘pre-k’ and be sure every student has what they need," Cassellius said.

Both lawmakers and educators are hoping the proposed funding increase is the answer they're looking for.

“It would be nice to get more funding towards early childhood education,” Fish said. “Just because we know that it plays such a major role in our child's development."

Officials do not expect much controversy at the capitol on the state education budget with both republicans and democrats pushing for similar changes.