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Teaching Young Children Mathematics

Janice Minetola, Robert G. Ziegenfuss, and J. Kent Chrisman
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Robert W. Hayden
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Those of us who work for MAA Reviews expect that every now and then a book will drop into our laps from heaven — which we suspect is somewhere in Maine. Wherever it may be, said books arrive without an advertising spiel or even a brochure. The title of this volume is self-explanatory, and the front matter describes it as a textbook, but it is not entirely clear in what course it might be used. So let’s describe it and perhaps we can find a use for it.

The early chapters are full of vague and lofty goals, a bit like a political party platform. Then we settle down to a stable format with each chapter covering a content sub-area such as measurement or numbers and operations. These chapters typically begin with an overview of the child’s mathematical development at various stages. These sound quite reasonable but are a bit sketchy, as though the reader already learned that material elsewhere.

Next we get a summary of various curricular standards (only slightly less platform-like) that apply to the content being discussed. That is followed by sample activities for teachers to use with students. These two topics are then covered at a succession of grade levels (K–3). The activities are excellent and the best part of the book. They are indeed well aligned with child development and curricular standards. They are generally simple and have a clear educational point. (Should the reader think that should be taken for granted, attend a meeting of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics where one can see a great many “activities” whose educational goal is difficult to fathom.) Most of the activities can be done without expensive equipment.

These chapters end with a series of short sections for all the covered grades. First there is perfunctory attention to children with special needs, mathematically promising children, and adaptations for children whose native language is not English. These give the appearance of having been tacked on by the marketing department or in response to early reviews. Then there are more useful ideas on connecting the content to other subjects and to the child’s life outside of school. Finally there is a vocabulary list as well as a list of storybooks related to the content, and references for further reading by the teacher.

Overall, this seems like a valuable resource for teachers in the early grades. Still, one might wonder about a course based on this as the main textbook. Much of the discussion is pretty nebulous, and while the activities and book lists look valuable, this book really does not tie those activities together into a coherent whole. Where does a future teacher learn to do that?

After a few years in industry, Robert W. Hayden ( taught mathematics at colleges and universities for 32 years and statistics for 20 years. In 2005 he retired from full-time classroom work. He now teaches statistics online at and does summer workshops for high school teachers of Advanced Placement Statistics. He contributed the chapter on evaluating introductory statistics textbooks to the MAA's Teaching Statistics.

Chapter 1. Nurturing Young Children's Mathematical Development

Chapter 2. Mathematics Curricula for Young Children, Standards, and Assessment

Chapter 3. Numbers and Operations

Chapter 4. Patterns, Functions, & Algebraic Thinking

Chapter 5. Geometry

Chapter 6. Measurement

Chatper 7. Data Analysis & Probability