Technology Play and Brain Development: Infancy to Adolescence and Future Implications

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You guys okay with that? I didn't do it. It was done here by Chang and Merzenich. So the red, yellow, and blue colors represent different frequencies of sounds that a rat can hear when it's young. And so it's kind of sloppy. There's red, and there's yellow, and then they're kind of intermixed with each other. And then after they go through puberty, here we go, there it goes, it looks like that.

So it gets smaller, but more compact, more efficient. You see how the colors have sorted out? So those are different frequencies that the rat can hear, and it wires itself up that way because it hurdled those frequencies of sounds from below which is blue, to high which is red. Now what happens if the rat is raised before this map gets produced?

It gets raised only in the red frequency. What do you think the map is going to look like?

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Pat Levitt: There it is. He read the study. So here's a great example. Why did the rat not just say, "Well, I'm just going to wire myself up to hear these frequencies based on red, yellow, and blue? Because that's what — I mean, I'm anthropomorphizing — but that's what it thought it was going to have to deal with, with the rest of his life, red frequencies.

Why should I wire myself up for blue or yellow if all I'm going to deal with is red? In fact, what the brain is doing is preparing itself through wiring of circuits to deal with what it thinks it's going to have to endure for the rest of his life. So that's the trick. So negative experiences are going to wire the brain up in a way that's going to They're going to wire their circuits up to see any change in emotion, in faces, which is what we use to figure out whether somebody's angry at us or happy with us or joyful with us or whatever.

They're going to wire themselves up to become expert. In fact, even over-representing anger. So it's changing brain architecture. So, language.

We know that complex language spoken to a child in a social setting is directly correlated with the language that the child develops in terms of the numbers of words. So this is what it looks like, studies that have been done in the mid-'90s, and in This is why there are programs now all around the country talking about talking to your child, doing it, not playing an audio tape for them and leaving the room, but actually talking to them and interacting with them.

And it has a positive effect. At 16 months, there's no difference when you look at education level or at income. If you look at 24 months, the gap starts, and by 36 months, it's a pretty significant gap. Again, this is not genetic. This is experience. So that means that you can shift that and change that by simply using language in a way, in your social interactions, that are going to shift that curve to go from here to here. So the key component of this developmental period of time, which language is being acquired and social skills are being acquired, is what we call serve and return.

This interaction between parent or primary caregiver and child, we call it serve and return because there is an initiator of the interaction. Now the mistake that most people make is they believe that the interaction obviously must be initiated by the adult because, of course, it's the adult.

But in fact, in serve and return, think about it, if you were standing on one side of a net on a tennis court and there's a person on the other side, and they get to serve all the time, or you're a one-sided, a net with the ball and there's nobody on the other side.

So it gets very boring very quickly. That would be neglect. But if you don't give the child that opportunity, the infant or toddler to initiate, it's not really that interaction. And look at what the child is looking at here. What are they looking at?


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What is the thing they look They're looking at the eyes. They're looking at the mouth. Mouth, they see, there are sounds coming out. I hear these sounds, but I'm seeing this mouth move, and they have to put together these vocalizations in a way where they can actually learn what the motor skills is to actually form the sounds themselves.

The sounds, phonemes are put together to form words. Words, then are associated with objects. We used to take our kids shopping all the time in wide aisle stores where they couldn't grab all the stuff and throw it on the floor. Every setting, it changes over time in terms of the skill set that they're learning. This is basic discriminating sounds. This is putting sounds together with objects, and then this is putting symbols together with sounds and words, but it's all done in the context of serve and return, of an interaction, that you can see here.

And by the way, it changes. So, it's initially primary caregivers. It's teachers and educators, and it becomes peers. All of which are all part of this process. This is conserved in evolution, you guys. There's a great story about bird song and how they learn. So there are lots of different species of songbirds. They each have their own special mating song, and teaches the juvenile male songbird their specific species' song. Raise your hand, shout it out. Who teaches it? Pat Levitt: The male, the adult male.

So it's clear that in order to learn this correct song, there has to be a live tutor presence in order for them to become expert at doing a song. If you just record the song and play it to the juvenile without the adult being there, it doesn't work at all. Similar to what I talked about in terms of serve and return. In this developmental game, new neural connections form in the brain as young children instinctively serve through babbling, facial expressions, and gestures, and adults return the serve responding in a very directed, meaningful way.

It starts very early in life when a baby coos and the adult interacts and directs the baby's attention to a face or a hand. This interaction forms the foundation of brain architecture upon which all future development will be built. It helps create neural connections between all the different areas of the brain, building the emotional and cognitive skills children need in life.

For example, here's how it works for literacy and language skills. When the baby sees an object, the adult says its name. This makes connections in the baby's brain between particular sounds and their corresponding object. Later, adults show young children that those objects and sounds can also be represented by marks on a page. With continued support from adults, children then learn how to decipher writing and eventually to write themselves. Each stage builds on what came before. Ensuring that children have adult caregivers who consistently engage in serve and return interaction beginning in infancy builds a foundation in the brain for all the learning, behavior, and health that follow.

Pat Levitt: There's one thing you take from what I talked about it's that serve and return is so central to everything that a child is going to learn in terms of social engagement, in terms of emotional regulation, and in terms of learning and being comfortable in those interactions, from my perspective, and it's evolutionary conserve.

There's nothing more important than that. So the absence of serve and return, when the neglect is severe, in the United States is the most severe form of what we call toxic stress. It's not abuse. It's not physical abuse. That's a toxic stressor, but in terms of the numbers, when you look at the numbers, it's neglect. Neglect for children is when they don't get what the brain is expecting to get, what the child is expecting to get, what we are biologically prepared and waiting for, which is input from those around us.

It's this back and forth serve and return interaction that literally shapes the architecture of the brain. Serve and return begins when a child looks at something, or observes something, makes an utterance, and that represents the serve, and return is when the parent Under conditions where serve and return is broken, you literally are pulling away what is the essential ingredient of the development of human brain architecture.

It was really compelling series of experiments, where they started by videotaping the mother and the baby engaging and cooing and smiling, and then they asked the mother to basically put on a blank face and not respond at all. When a baby is not attended to, that is a sign of danger to the baby biologically.

So the stress systems become activated. In a brain that is constantly bathed in stress hormones, not that's up and down that comes with normal development, certain key synapses, the connections between nerves fail to form in critical regions of the brain. So neglect both fails to provide the stimulation that's needed to develop the basic architecture. And when it's at a certain level, is one of the most potent activators of the stress biology of a young child.

So you get a double whammy. Pat Levitt: You get a double whammy. So a child like that not responding, not interacting, and they're very upset, that's not making them stronger. It's not making their brain architecture stronger. Built into that architecture early on is the desire to interact. When experiencing stress, the stress response system is activated.

The body and brain go on alert. There's an adrenaline rush, increased heart rate, and an increase in stress hormone levels. When the stress is relieved after a short time, or a young child receives support from caring adults, the stress response winds down and the body quickly returns to normal. In severe situations such as ongoing abuse and neglect, where there is no caring adult to act as a buffer against the stress, the stress response stays activated.

Even when there is no apparent physical harm, the extended absence of response from adults can activate the stress response system. Constant activation of the stress response overloads developing systems with serious life-long consequences for the child. This is known as toxic stress. Over time, this results in a stress response system set permanently on a high alert. In the areas of the brain dedicated to learning and reasoning, the neural connections that comprise brain architecture are weaker and fewer in number.

Science shows that the prolonged activation of stress hormones in early childhood can actually reduce neural connections in these important areas of the brain at just the time when they should be growing new ones. Toxic stress can be avoided if we ensure that the environments in which children grow and develop are nurturing, stable, and engaging. Pat Levitt: So that doesn't mean that all stress is bad. So when you think about all sorts of stressors that an older infant or a toddler will go through, when I was I hated, dreaded circle time because I stuttered, and so when I was a child, I stuttered terribly.

I had no fluent speech. So that was incredibly stressful for me to go through. It was intermittent. I had siblings and parents and then occasionally a really good teacher, who provided me with the scaffold of interaction to give me the confidence to be able to do it, even though I didn't have fluent speech.

So it was stressful. I learned how to modulate my emotion. So not all stress is bad, and in fact, it's good to have children have to deal with certain issues and challenges and problems. So it's not about wrapping them up in cotton and putting them to an [inaudible ]. But here we're talking about chronic abuse, chronic neglect that lasts for long periods of time. I do want to make that clear. So it's also about health for a lifetime. There was a study that was done back in the late '50s, early '60s looking at some of the first studies. Perry Preschool and Abecedarian, at that time the question was does high-quality preschool matter compared to those children in the community who were not getting any?

And there are all sorts of things that happened in that study. They measured IQ, nothing happened. But then they started to measure all these other outcomes, like high school graduation rates and income and all sorts of stuff, and they could see that there were big effects. Nobody had really thought about the fact that high stress or these kinds of really positive programs early on could actually have an effect on the whole child for a lifetime. So this is a story that came out in where they looked at the health of individuals as adults who were in this program as four year olds.

So they're looking like, whatever, 40, 50 years later. And so they looked at a lot of things, but the thing that was most impressive to me was they looked at blood pressure. Are you hypertensive or not?


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Not great, not good. You go to the doctor, they're putting you on a low-salt diet and no more ribs. I'm looking at my friend, Dan. High-quality childhood And this study, this was done by Economist, by the way. It's amazing. This is like 40 years later, 40 years later. But it's an accumulation of the fact that that high-quality program started to create a support system and experiences in a positive way that allowed the stress response system to react appropriately to stressors during childhood and into young adulthood, and then come back down to restart again.

It wasn't chronically activated. I think this is pretty amazing. And then we know in the immune system, it's the same thing, and I'm going to skip because I'm going to run out of time, so I'm going to skip that. So one of the problems in talking about this, the policy makers and the other people is there's always this, well, you're talking about all these bad things, but I know somebody, I know somebody like me, I know somebody who is okay after a traumatic childhood.

So if they fall back to this idea of you're either strong or you're not, there's nothing we can do about it, so why are you talking to me about programs or community settings or families or anything else like that? So resilience is what we call the ability to endure adversity. And so is it about this idea of rugged individualism.

So here's the video that's going to talk about this. A child scale is placed in a community, and has spaces on either side where experiences and environmental influences stack up over the course of development. One side gets stacked with negative factors, like stress, violence, and neglect. While the other side gets loaded with positive factors, like supportive relationships, skill building opportunities, and community resources. In the same way that the weight on a teeter-totter affects the direction it tips, the factors that a child is exposed to affect how they turn out, the outcomes of their development.

But the way the scale tips and the outcomes a child experiences are also a function of the position of the scale's fulcrum, which is like the genetic makeup of the child. The position of the fulcrum affects how the scale responds to factors that get stacked on either side and how easily it tips. We know that fulcrums start in different places for different children, and that this genetic starting point is an important factor in how a child responds to experiences and how they turn out.

We also know that the position of the fulcrum isn't fixed. It's a sliding set point. Over time, the things that load and tip the scale can actually shift the position of the fulcrum. There are points in human development when this fulcrum is easier to shift. During these shiftable periods, our biology can be changed, making us more or less able to withstand negative weight that gets stacked on the scale.

One of these shiftable periods is early childhood, and another is adolescence. That's why it's so important to make sure that children have positive experiences, especially early on, and a continued positive support throughout development. By providing positive experiences during these sensitive periods of development and offloading negative weight, we can shift the fulcrum, making children more able to bear the weight of negative experiences later on, making them more resilient.

So resilience isn't just about individual children. It's about the environments and experiences that gets stacked under resilience scale. Resilient societies are those that figure out how to stack more positives than negatives onto the children who will become workers and citizens. Pat Levitt: So there's a really important concept in there, that we are not the same. We inherit genes from our mom and dad, creates a different biology, but the biology, because the genes are influential in that, are not super glue.

That fulcrum is not super-glued to the board. It can move, and it can move through negative or positive experiences. There's great examples that I don't have time to go through, where we know that there are genes, there are variants of genes that increase risk, let's say, for adult depression. I want to play that game. Genes that are increased risk for adult depression, when combined with early adverse childhood experiences.

But if that individual who has that risk factor doesn't have early adverse childhood experiences, their risk for depression is no different than somebody who does not have that risk gene. So just because somebody says genetics, it doesn't mean that it's immutable. That's really important. So here's a neural system that's key to resilience, and there are lots of programs, and you're going to hear about some of them, incorporating some of these skill sets and something that we call executive function. It's not about IQ. It's about a combination of skills that we use to solve problems, to be able to shift from one thing that we're doing to another, all sorts of things that you think about as a child and a young adult, and then finally as you are an adult, have to go through on a daily basis.

It's not just about learning language or learning numbers or learning colors. We have to be able to work effectively with others, with distractions, with multiple demands. These actually are skills that contribute to the productivity of the American workforce. That's exactly the problem. These kids, they can tell me these rules, but they can actually use them. Just like an air traffic control system has to manage lots of airplanes going on, lots of runways, and really exquisite timing and so on, a child has to manage a lot of information and avoid distractions.

We really think of it as an involving working memory and inhibitory control and mental flexibility. Take a situation where a child is having to take turns. So first of all, the child has to have inhibitory control. But when it's your turn again, you also have to remember what it is you're supposed to be doing.

So that pulls on working memory. If the children who are taking the turns after you do something unpredictable, you have to be able to adjust what you're going to do next, and that requires mental flexibility. Children who are struggling with these capacities often look like children who just aren't paying attention, or children who are deliberately not controlling themselves.

So you get this downward spiral. What's going on in our brains is unbelievably intricate and complicated. But it's more than just prefrontal cortex. This region doesn't act alone. It's involved in controlling your behavior through its interactions with all other parts of the brain. The brain goes from a situation where you've got nearest neurons communicating very strongly with each other and ignoring the rest of the brain, to this widespread networks that are connecting these different areas. Executive function changes over the life course. It improves radically over the first few years.

It continues to improve throughout adolescence. It's not until early adulthood that you have the adult type networks that are very strongly activated, that connect different brain regions together. It's just like going to the gym.

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So the more you practice in these areas, the stronger the capacity is likely to become because you're helping to strengthen those neural connections. Pat Levitt: So let's watch an example. I'm sort of on time. I'm not late yet. So you've seen my watch? So this is a great example. This is like a three year old, I think. So everything you heard about mental flexibility, impulse control, focus, perseverance. There's no sound. So he's in the classroom. I think it's a Montessori, I don't know, but he's in a classroom. So there are kids walking around and So he gets that point.

He figures that. He's getting to his working memory. That block's bigger. It's not going to stay. No way. He's got that, right? And he's not getting upset. This would not be me, by the way, at the age of three. I would have kicked that thing over. Now that child's so great impulse control. Unbelievable, right? But it wasn't just that child. It wasn't just him who was showing all these incredible He's three. But there are other children, the same age, who are in that room showing impulse control, watching. They were probably doing other things not distracted by what he was doing, etc.

It's a great example. So this is all about, from my perspective, building these strong relationships, give the skill sets to be able to deal with different challenges over time because the challenges change from being one to two to three. I'm going to skip the Dunedin study. We know from lots of longitudinal studies, and you're going to hear about one, that when you measure early on science of executive function disruption, low persistence, impulsiveness, inattention, that's increases risk for those children to developing what we call behavioral disinhibition, the ability to not control your behavior under a variety of conditions, which child disruptive disorders, externalizing behaviors.

And these are all the things that increase that will turn out in terms of increased risk. Not every child, but surely it increases risk for expressing all of these problems. Of course, your ratio rates are up, drug use. These are longitudinal studies over 40 years. This is New Zealand by the way, but it's been seen in longitudinal studies over and over and over again. Physical illness, cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, just like I showed blood pressure. This affects physical health, too.

Mental illness, low adult income, etc. This is the last video, then I'm done. It's something that really can be built even in difficult circumstances. A key active core ingredient to building resilience are the relationships that kids have to others who care about them. Of course, families play a very important role, but nobody raises children in isolation. We have a huge amount of research that show the powerful impacts of teachers, coaches, other adults in the community with whom children have a chance to develop relationships, who play that critical supportive role of building resilience as a result of responsive interaction.

Children build simple skills of coping and adapting, how to stop crying, how to regulate your behavior, being able to defer gratification. They have an adaptive toolkit that allows you at moments of stress or challenge to bring up a number of potential skills that allow you to get through it. As children get older, the sophistication of those skills increases. Labeling is a powerful way to foster conceptual development.

Simple labels can help children unify disparate things into coherent categories, but can also have the unintended consequence of reinforcing categories or concepts that are not desirable. Some kinds of categories—two round balls, for example—are fairly easy to form, such that even babies treat the objects as similar. But many objects that adults view as members of the same category are perceptually dissimilar, and children would not, on their own, categorize them together.

Some categories have very diverse members: consider a greyhound and a bichon frise as dogs, or a tie and a raincoat as clothing. Atypical members of categories—thinking of a penguin as a bird, for example—also are difficult for children to categorize on their own. Hearing perceptually diverse objects called by the same label enables children to treat them as members of the same category, which in turn affects the kinds of inductive inferences children draw about them cf.

Gelman, Even very young children will base their inductive inferences on the category to which objects belong rather than their perceptual features when the objects are labeled. Providing a common label for perceptually disparate objects also is a way of transmitting cultural knowledge to children. This effect of labeling objects speaks to one of the ways in which ordinary interaction with babies enriches their cognitive development and early learning Graham et al.

While categorization has many benefits for developing inductive reasoning, it can also ultimately be associated with inferences that exaggerate differences between categories and similarities within categories. This may be linked to some undesirable consequences, such as stereotyping or prejudice based on these inferences Master et al. It is impossible for any individual to experience first-hand all of the exemplars of a category.

The use of generics is thus an indispensable way of learning about the category as a whole. Generics are a powerful way of conveying general facts, properties, or information about a category, and those generalizations often can stand even in the face of counterexamples Gelman, Therefore, not only. This stability has many advantages, but as with categorization, it also can be problematic—for example, generic statements about social categories can reify the categories and beliefs about them. When an individual encounters members of a social category that do not share the relevant trait or behavior, those people may then be seen as exceptions but the generalization will still stand.

Properties conveyed by generics also are construed as central or essential to the category Cimpian and Markman, Four- and 5-year-old children given the same information conveyed using generic versus nongeneric phrases interpret the information quite differently. Subtle differences in generic versus nongeneric language used to convey information to children can shape the kinds of generalizations they make, the strength of those generalizations, and the extent to which properties are considered central or defining of the category.

Here, too, generics can sometimes play an unwanted role Cimpian and Markman, Dweck and colleagues have shown that children who believe an ability is inherent and fixed are more likely to give up when faced with failure and to lose motivation for and interest in a task, while children who view an ability as malleable are more likely to take on the challenge and work to improve their skill. Many of the foundations of sophisticated forms of learning, including those important to academic success, are established in the earliest years of life.

Development and early learning can be supported continuously as a child develops, and early knowledge and skills inform and influence future learning. Many of these concepts describe cognitive processes that are implicit. By contrast with the explicit knowledge that older children and adults can put into words, implicit knowledge is tacit or nonconscious understanding that cannot readily be consciously described see, e.

Examples of implicit knowledge in very young children include many of the early achievements discussed above, such as their implicit theories of living things and of the human mind and their nonconscious awareness of the statistical frequency of the associations among speech sounds in the language they are hearing. Not all early learning is implicit, of course. Very young children are taking significant strides in their explicit knowledge of language, the functioning of objects, and the characteristics of people and animals in the world around them.

Thus early learning occurs on two levels: the growth of knowledge that is visible and apparent, and the growth of implicit understanding that is sometimes more difficult to observe. This distinction between implicit and explicit learning can be confusing to early childhood practitioners and parents , who often do not observe or recognize evidence for the sophisticated implicit learning—or even the explicit learning—taking place in the young children in their care.

Instead, toddlers and young children seem highly distractable, emotional, and not very capable of managing their impulses. All of these observations about young children are true, but at the same time, their astonishing growth in language skills, their very different. This point is especially important because the cognitive abilities of young children are so easily underestimated. In the past, for example, the prevalent belief that infants lack conceptual knowledge meant that parents and practitioners missed opportunities to explore with them cause and effect, number, or symbolic play.

In light of these observations, how do early educators contribute to the cognitive growth of children in their first 3 years? One way is by providing appropriate support for the learning that is occurring in these very young children see, e. Using an abundance of child-directed language during social interaction, playing counting games e.

The implications for instructional practices and curricula for educators working with infants and toddlers are discussed further in Chapter 6. Another way that educators contribute to the cognitive growth of infants and toddlers is through the emotional support they provide Jamison et al. Emotional support of this kind is important not only as a positive.

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Early Brain Development and Health

Moreover, the secure attachments that young children develop with educators contribute to an expectation of adult support that enables young children to approach learning opportunities more positively and confidently. Emotional support and socioemotional development are discussed further later in this chapter. Consider, for example, a parent or other caregiver interacting with a 1-year-old over a shape-sorting toy. The adult may also be using number words to count the blocks as they are deposited.

In this interaction, moreover, the baby is developing both expectations for what this adult is like—safe, positive, responsive—and skills for social interaction such as turn taking. As children further develop cognitively as preschoolers, their growth calls for both similar and different behavior by the adults who work with them.

First, they are more consciously aware of their knowledge—much more of their understanding is now explicit. This means they are more capable of deliberately enlisting what they know into new learning situations, although they are not yet as competent or strategic in doing so as they will be in the primary grades.

When faced with a problem or asked a question, they are more capable of offering an answer based on what they know, even when their knowledge is limited. Second, preschoolers are more competent in learning from their deliberate efforts to do so, such as trial-and-error or informal experimentation. Nonetheless, the potential to underestimate the cognitive abilities of young children persists in the preschool and kindergarten years.

A study in kindergarten revealed that teachers spent most of their time in basic content that children already knew, yet the children benefited more from advanced reading and mathematics content Claessens et al. One example is interactive storybook reading, in which children describe the pictures and label their elements while the adult and child ask and answer questions of each other about the narrative.

In each case, dialogic conversation about text. Language and literacy skills are discussed further in a subsequent section of this chapter, as well as in Chapter 6. In a similar manner, board games can provide a basis for learning and extending number concepts. In several experimental demonstrations, when preschool children played number board games specifically designed to foster their mental representations of numerical quantities, they showed improvements in number line estimates, count-on skill, numerical identification, and other important quantitative concepts Laski and Siegler, Other research has shown that instructional strategies that promote higher-level thinking, creativity, and even abstract understanding, such as talking about ideas or about future events, is associated with greater cognitive achievement by preschool-age children e.

These activities also can be integrated into other instructional practices during a typical day. Preschool-age children are developing a sense of themselves and their competencies, including their academic skills Marsh et al. Their beliefs about their abilities in reading, counting, vocabulary, number games, and other academic competencies derive from several sources, including spontaneous social comparison with other children and feedback from teachers and parents concerning their achievement and the reasons they have done well or poorly. Primary grade children are using more complex vocabulary and grammar.

They are growing in their ability to make mental representations, but they still have difficulty grasping abstract concepts without the aid of real-life references and materials Tomlinson, This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life. Children at this age show more independence from parents and family, while friendship, being liked and accepted by peers, becomes more important.

Being in school most of the day means greater contact with a larger world, and children begin to develop a greater understanding of their place in that world CDC, Children understand their own feelings more and more, and learn better ways to describe experiences and express thoughts and feelings. They better understand the consequences of their actions, and their focus on concern for others grows. They are very observant, are willing to play cooperatively and work in teams, and can resolve some conflicts without seeking adult intervention CDC, Children who are unable to self-regulate have emotional difficulties that may interfere with their learning.

Educators in these settings are scaffolding the skills that began to develop earlier, so that children are able to gradually apply those skills with less and less external support. This serves as a bridge to succeeding in upper primary grades, so if students lack necessary knowledge and skills in any domain of development and learning, their experience during the early elementary grades is crucial in helping them gain those competencies. Building on many of the themes that have emerged from this discussion, the following sections continue by looking in more depth at cognitive development with respect to learning specific subjects and then at other major elements of development, including general learning competencies, socioemotional development, and physical development and health.

These skills and abilities include the general cognitive development discussed above, the general learning competencies that allow children to control their own attention and thinking; and the emotion regulation that allows children to control their own emotions and participate in classroom activities in a productive way the latter two are discussed in sections later in this chapter. Still another important category of skills and abilities, the focus of this section, is subject-matter content knowledge and skills, such as competencies needed specifically for learning language and literacy or mathematics.

Content knowledge and skills are acquired through a developmental process. As children learn about a topic, they progress through increasingly sophisticated levels of thinking with accompanying cognitive components. These developmental learning paths can be used as the core of a learning trajectory through which students can be supported by educators who understand both the content and those levels of thinking.

Each learning trajectory has three parts: a goal to develop a certain competence in a topic , a developmental progression children constructing each level of thinking in turn , and instructional activities tasks and teaching practices designed to enable thinking at each higher level.

Learning trajectories also promote the learning of skills and concepts together—an effective approach that leads to both mastery and more fluent, flexible use of skills, as well as to superior conceptual understanding Fuson and Kwon, ; National Mathematics Advisory Panel, See Chapter 6 for additional discussion of using learning trajectories and other instructional practices.

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Every subject area requires specific content knowledge and skills that are acquired through developmental learning processes. It is not possible to cover the specifics here for every subject area a young child learns. To maintain a feasible scope, this chapter covers two core subject areas: 1 language and literacy and 2 mathematics.

This scope is not meant to imply that learning in other areas, such as science, engineering, social studies, or the arts, is unimportant or less subject specific. Rather, these two were selected because they are foundational for other subject areas and for later academic achievement, and because how they are learned has been well studied in young children compared with many other subject areas. The development of language and literacy includes knowl-. The following sections address the development of language and literacy skills, including the relationship between the two; the role of the language-learning environment; socioeconomic disparities in early language environments; and language and literacy development in dual language learners.

Language skills build in a developmental progression over time as children increase their vocabulary, average sentence length, complexity and sophistication of sentence structure and grammar, and ability to express new ideas through words Kipping et al. Catts and Kamhi define five features of language that both work independently and interact as children develop language skills: phonology speech sounds of language , semantics meanings of words and phrases , morphology meaningful parts of words and word tenses , syntax rules for combining and ordering words in phrases , and pragmatics appropriate use of language in context.

The first three parameters combined phonology, semantics, and morphology enable listening and speaking vocabulary to develop, and they also contribute to the ability to read individual words. Developing oral communication skills are closely linked to the interactions and social bonds between adults and children. This comprehension begins with pragmatics—the social aspects of language that include facial and body language as well as words, such that infants recognize positive and negative interactions.

Semantics understanding meanings of words and clusters of words that are related soon follows, in which toddlers link objects and their attributes to words. Between the ages of 2 and 4, most children show dramatic growth in language, particularly in understanding the meanings of words, their interrelationships, and grammatical forms Scarborough, Karmiloff and Karmiloff-Smith suggest that children build webs among words with similar semantics, which leads to broader generalizations among classes of related words.

Then, as new words arise from conversation, storytelling, and book reading, these words are linked to. The more often adults use particular words in conversation with young children, the sooner children will use those words in their own speech Karmiloff and Karmiloff-Smith, Research has linked the size of vocabulary of 2-year-olds to their reading comprehension through fifth grade Lee, Book reading stimulates conversation outside the immediate context—for example, children ask questions about the illustrations that may or may not be central to the story.

This introduces new words, which children attach to the features of the illustrations they point out and incorporate into book-centered conversations. This type of language, removed from the here and now, is decontextualized language. Children exposed to experiences not occurring in their immediate environment are more likely to understand and use decontextualized language Hindman et al.

Repeated routines also contribute to language development. As books are read repeatedly, children become familiar with the vocabulary of the story and their conversations can be elaborated. Routines help children with developmental delays acquire language and use it more intelligibly van Kleek, The long-term effect of high-quality teacher—child book-centered interactions in preschool lasted through the end of first grade.

New research shows that the effects of interactive reading also hold when adapted to the use of digital media as a platform for decontextualized language and other forms of language development. However, a few studies of e-books also have shown that the bells and whistles of the devices can get in the. See also the discussion of effective use of technology in instruction in Chapter 6. Alongside developing depth of vocabulary including the meaning of words and phrases and their appropriate use in context , other important parameters of language development are syntax rules for combining and ordering words in phrases, as in rules of grammar and morphology meaningful parts of words and word tenses.

Even before the age of 2, toddlers parse a speech stream into grammatical units Hawthorne and Gerken, Long before preschool, most children join words together into sentences and begin to use the rules of grammar i. Along with these morphemic changes to words, understanding syntax helps children order the words and phrases in their sentences to convey and to change meaning. Before children learn to read, the rules of syntax help them derive meaning from what they hear and convey meaning through speech. Cunningham and Zibulsky , p. Although syntactic understanding develops for most children through conversation with adults and older children, children also use these rules of syntax to extract meaning from printed words.

This becomes an important reading skill after first grade, when text meaning is less likely to be supported with pictures. Construction of sentences with passive voice and other complex, decontextualized word forms are more likely to be found in books and stories than in directive conversations with young children. An experimental study illustrates the role of exposure to syntactic structures in the development of language comprehension Vasilyeva et al. Four-year-olds listened to stories in active or passive voice.

After listening to ten stories, their understanding of passages containing these syntactic structures was assessed. Although students in both groups understood and could use active voice similar to routine conversation , those who listened to stories with passive voice scored higher on comprehension of this structure. Literacy skills follow a developmental trajectory such that early skills and stages lead into more complex and integrated skills and stages Adams, Seminal theories and studies of reading describe an inextricable link between language development and reading achievement e.

Early oral language competencies predict later literacy Pearson and Hiebert, Not only do young children with stronger oral language competencies acquire new language skills faster than students with poorly developed oral language competencies Dickinson and Porche, , but they also learn key literacy skills faster, such as phonemic awareness and understanding of the alphabetic principle Cooper et al.

Both of these literacy skills in turn facilitate learning to read in kindergarten and first grade. Vocabulary development a complex and integrative feature of language that grows continuously and reading words a skill that most children master by third or fourth grade Ehri, are reciprocally related, and both reading words accurately and understanding what words mean contribute to reading comprehension Gough et al. Because comprehending and learning from text depend largely upon a deep understanding of the language used to communicate the ideas and concepts expressed, oral language skills i.

For example, children with larger speaking vocabularies in preschool may have an easier time with phoneme awareness and the alphabetic. Each word a child knows can influence how well she or he understands a sentence that uses that word, which in turn can influence the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to learn new words.

A stronger speaking and listening vocabulary provides a deeper and wider field of words students can attempt to match to printed words. Being bogged down by figuring out what a given word means slows the rate of information processing and limits what is learned from a sentence. Thus, differences in early vocabulary can have cascading, cumulative effects Fernald et al. The transition from speaking and listening to reading and writing is not a smooth one for many children. Although a well-developed vocabulary can make that transition easier, many children also have difficulty learning the production and meanings of words.

Longitudinal studies of reading disability have found that 70 percent of poor readers had a history of language difficulties Catts et al. The oral language and vocabulary children learn through interactions with parents, siblings, and caregivers and through high-quality interactions with educators provide the foundation for later literacy and for learning across all subject areas, as well as for their socioemotional well-being. The language interactions children experience at home and in school influence their developing minds and their understanding of concepts and ideas.

The daily talk to which children are exposed and in which they participate is essential for developing their minds—a key ingredient for building their knowledge of the world and their understanding of concepts and ideas. In turn, this conceptual knowledge is a cornerstone of reading success. The bulk of the research on early linguistic experiences has investigated language input in the home environment, demonstrating the features of.

The evidence accumulated emphasizes the importance of the quantity of communicative input i. This research has particularly relevant implications for educational practices discussed further in Chapter 6. The language environment of the classroom can function as a support for developing the kind of language that is characteristic of the school curriculum—for example, giving children opportunities to develop the sophisticated vocabulary and complex syntax found in texts, beginning at a very early age Schleppegrell, ; Snow and Uccelli, Moreover, advances in cognitive science suggest that it is not enough to be immersed in environments that offer multiple opportunities for exposure to varied and rich language experiences.

Rather, the process also needs to be socially mediated through more knowledgeable persons who can impart their knowledge to the learner; again, social interaction is a critical component of cognitive development and learning. Early childhood settings and elementary classrooms thus not only present opportunities for exposure to varied language- and literacy-rich activities whether written or spoken , but also provide a person who is expert in mediating the learning process—the educator. For example, Huttenlocher and colleagues found greater syntactic skills in preschoolers exposed to teachers who used more syntactically complex utterances.

Another study found for monolingual English-speaking children that fourth-grade reading comprehension levels were predicted by exposure to sophisticated vocabulary in preschool. In classroom studies focused on the linguistic environment, the level of analysis has involved broad measures of language use, such as amount of talk i. Children are better prepared to comprehend narrative texts they encounter in school if their early language environments provide more exposure to and opportunities to participate in extended discourse.

This is because extended discourse and narrative texts share similar patterns for communicating ideas Uccelli et al. Engaging groups of children in effective extended discourse involves asking and discussing open-ended questions and encouraging turn taking, as well as monitoring the group to involve nonparticipating children Girolametto and Weitzman, In addition to using interactive storybook and text reading as a platform for back-and-forth conversations often referred to as interactive or dialogic reading, as described in the preceding section Mol et al.

These findings are consistent with the notion that to promote language learning, different inputs are needed at. Children benefit from hearing simplified speech during very early word learning Furrow et al. With more exposure to language and more advanced vocabulary development, they benefit from speech input that is more complex i. Hoff suggests that if input is too complex, children filter it out without negative consequences—as long as sufficient beneficial input is available to them. An important consideration in light of these findings is that recent research in early childhood classrooms serving children from low-income backgrounds suggests that daily high-quality language-building experiences may be rare for these children.

For example, in a Head Start organization serving large numbers of Latino children a recent observational study found a preschool environment lacking in the frequent and high-quality teacher—child language interactions that are needed to support language and literacy development Jacoby and Lesaux, Literacy instruction was highly routine based and with low-level language structures. Extended discourse was infrequently used; only 22 percent of observed literacy-based lessons included at least one instance of extended discourse between a teacher and a child or group of children.

Instead, teachers asked questions that yielded short answers or linked only to the here and now e. What is the weather today? These features of infrequent extended discourse and predominantly routine-based literacy instruction were remarkably stable across teachers and classrooms. Other research investigating teacher talk in Head Start preschool classrooms has produced similar findings e.

This is consistent with findings that there are sizable cultural and socioeconomic differences in high-quality language-promoting experiences in the home and in the classroom environment in early childhood Dickinson, ; Dickinson and Porche, ; Dickinson and Tabors, ; Raikes et al. At the same time, for children from low-resource backgrounds oral language skills show an even stronger connection to later academic outcomes than for children from high-resource backgrounds.

Given these findings, rich linguistic experiences at early ages may therefore be especially important for these children. Even small improvements in the literacy environment can have especially strong effects for children who are raised in low-income households Dearing et al. Improving language environments for young children requires daily learning opportunities that focus on the diversity and complexity of language used with young children. Extended discourse can take place throughout all activities and in specific interactions, especially using book reading as a platform for back-and-forth conversations.

Such studies could advance existing research in at least two ways. In particular, it could further elucidate how language-based social processes in the classroom affect literacy development for the many students who enter schools and other care and education settings with limited proficiency in English.

The majority of published studies focused on language-based interactions are focused on English-only learners, despite the fact that social processes can be experienced differently by different groups, even within the same setting Rogoff and Angelillo, ; Tseng and Seidman, In addition, prior research has measured a two-way process in a largely unidirectional manner—measuring speech only from parent to child or educator to student. More specifically, Justice and colleagues suggest that future research examine teacher—child language interactions in a multidimensional way to explore how syntactic complexity, cognitive demand, and even linguistic form e.

Finally, greater understanding is needed of the ways in which the classroom language processes described in this section might act as a foundational mediator of the efficacy of interventions focused on learning outcomes in other domains and subject areas. This study also found that children with advanced language skills will receive greater benefits from interacting with peers who also have advanced language skills Mashburn et al.

In order to achieve these benefits, however, the preschool classrooms need to be designed so that peers can interact with one another, and include activities such as reading books and engaging in play together. Children with teachers who organize the day with optimal amounts of time for peer-to-peer interactions may achieve greater language growth Mashburn et al. For children whose home language is not the predominant language of their school, educators and schools need to ensure the development of English proficiency. At the same time, children can be helped to both build and maintain their first language while adding language and literacy skills in English Espinosa, In support of this as a long-term goal are the potential advantages of being bilingual, including maintaining a cultural and linguistic heritage and conferring an advantage in the ability to communicate with a broader population in future social, educational, and work environments.

Additionally, an emerging field of research, albeit with mixed results to date, explores potential advantages of being bilingual that are linked more directly to cognitive development, starting in early childhood and extending to preserving cognitive function and delaying the symptoms of dementia in the elderly Bialystok, ; de Bruin et al.

Bilingual or multilingual children are faced with more communicative challenges than their monolingual peers. A child who frequently experiences failure to be understood or to understand may be driven to pay more attention to context, paralinguistic cues, and gestures in order to interpret an utterance, and thus become better at reading such cues. The result may be improved development of theory of mind and understanding of pragmatics Yow and Markman, a,b. In addition, the need to continually suppress one language for another affords ongoing practice in inhibitory or executive control, which could confer advantages on a range of inhibitory control tasks in children and helps preserve this fundamental ability in aging adults Bialystok, ; Bialystok and Craik, ; Bialystok et al.

One challenge in the education of dual language learners is that they sometimes are classified along with children with special needs. One reason for this is the lack of good assessment tools to help distinguish the nature of the difficulties experienced by dual language learners—whether due to a learning disability or to the fact that learning a second language is difficult, takes time, and develops differently in different children Hamayan et al. More information about this study can be found at www. Mathematics knowledge in preschool predicts mathematics achievement even into high school National Mathematics Advisory Panel, ; NRC, ; Stevenson and Newman, Mathematics ability and language ability also are interrelated as mutually reinforcing skills Duncan et al.

Indeed, mathematical thinking reaches beyond competence with numbers and shapes to form a foundation for general cognition and learning Clements and Sarama, ; Sarama et al. Mathematics therefore appears to be a core subject and a core component of thinking and learning Duncan and Magnuson, ; Duncan et al. Given its general importance to academic success Sadler and Tai, , children need a robust foundation in mathematics knowledge in their earliest years.

Multiple analyses suggest that mathematics learning should begin early, especially for children at risk for later difficulties in school Byrnes and Wasik, ; Clements and Sarama, Well before first grade, children can learn the skills and concepts that support more complex mathematics understanding later. Particularly important areas of mathematics for young children to learn include number, which includes whole number, operations, and relations; geometry; spatial thinking; and measurement.

Children also need to develop proficiency in processes for both general and specific mathematical reasoning NRC, If given opportunities to learn, young children possess a remarkably broad, complex, and sophisticated—albeit informal—knowledge of mathematics Baroody, ; Clarke et al. In their free play, almost all preschoolers engage in substantial amounts of premathematical activity. They count objects; compare magnitudes; and explore patterns, shapes, and spatial relations.

Preschoolers can also, for example, learn to invent solutions to simple arithmetic problems Sarama and Clements, High-quality mathematics education can help children realize their potential in mathematics achievement Doig et al. However, without such education starting, and continuing throughout, the early years, many children will be on a trajectory in which they will have great difficulty catching up to their peers Rouse et al. As discussed further in Chapter 6 , early childhood classrooms typically are ill suited to helping children learn mathematics and underestimate their ability to do so.

In some cases, children can even experience a regression on some mathematics skills during prekindergarten and kindergarten Farran et al. Mathematics needs to be conceptualized as more than. Without building a robust understanding of mathematics in the early years, children too often come to believe that math is a guessing game and a system of rules without reason Munn, Both education and experience can make a difference, as evidenced by data from the latest international Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, which added data collection on early mathematics education Mullis et al.

Students with higher mathematics achievement at fourth and sixth grades had parents who reported that they often engaged their children in early numeracy activities and that their children had attended preprimary education and started school able to do early numeracy tasks e. Those children who had attended preschool or kindergarten had higher achievement, while the 13 percent who had attended no preprimary school had much lower average mathematics achievement Mullis et al.

Children move through a developmental progression in specific mathematical domains, which informs learning trajectories as important tools for supporting learning and teaching. Box illustrates the concept of a developmental progression through the example of subitizing , an oft-neglected mathematical goal for young children. Research shows that subitizing, the rapid and accurate recognition of the number in a small group, is one of the main abilities very young children should develop Palmer and Baroody, ; Reigosa-Crespo et al.

Through subitizing, children can discover critical properties of number, such as conservation and compensation Clements and Sarama, ; Maclellan, and develop such capabilities as unitizing and arithmetic. Subitizing is not the only way children think and learn about number. Counting is the other method of quantification. It is the first and most basic mathematical algorithm and one of the more critical early mathematics competencies Aunola et al.

Chapter 6 includes examples from a complete learning trajectory—goal, developmental progression, and instructional activities—for counting Clements and Sarama, For example, very young children possess approximate number systems ANSs that allow them to discriminate large and small sets, determining, for example, whether there are more white or gray dots in the figure below.

Six-month-olds can discriminate a ratio, and by 9 months of age, they can also distinguish sets in a ratio e. Subitizing involves determining and explicitly identifying the exact number of items in a small set. Subitizing ability develops in a stepwise fashion. Between 35 and 37 months, they differentiate between 1 and 2, but not larger numbers.

A few months later, at 38 to 40 months, they can identify 3 as well. After about 42 months, they can identify all numbers that they can count, 4 and higher, at about the same time. However, research in natural, child-initiated settings shows that the development of these abilities can occur much earlier, with children working on 1 and 2 around their second birthday or earlier Mix et al. Babies in the first 6 months of life, and even earlier, can discriminate 1 object from 2, and 2 objects from 3 Antell and Keating, ; Wynn et al. Thus, even infants can discriminate among and match small configurations of objects, only for these small numbers.

Because children cannot discriminate 4 objects from 5 or 6 until the age of about 3 years, some researchers have suggested that infants use an automatic perceptual process that people, including adults, can apply only to small collections up to around 4 objects Chi and Klahr, A developmental progression moves from foundational but pre-explicit quantification to explicit naming of small quantities. This initially involves only perceptual subitizing Clements, ; Kaufman et al. From their second to third birthdays, most children can name sets of 1 and 2, and then 3 soon thereafter Mix et al.

Larger sets are perceived, quantified, and quickly named as the child gains experience. Perceptual subitizing also plays the role of unit-. Then a qualitative advance is made as conceptual subitizing develops. This involves similarly quantifying 2 parts separately and then combining them, again, quickly, accurately, and without being explicitly aware of the cognitive processing Clements, ; see empirical evidence for such processes in Trick and Pylyshyn, Many theories have been advanced to explain the subitizing process Baroody et al. A synthesis suggests the following model.

The ANS serves as a transition between general, approximate notions of number and one based on an exact, abstract, mental model. Infants quantify collections of rigid objects not sequences of sounds or materials that are nonrigid and noncohesive such as water Huntley-Fenner et al.

These quantifications begin as an undifferentiated, innate notion of amount of objects. Object individuation, which occurs early in preattentive processing and is a general, not numerical-only, process , helps lay the groundwork for differentiating discrete from continuous quantity. For example, by about 6 months of age, infants may represent very small numbers 1 or 2 as individuated objects.

To compare quantities, they process correspondences. Initially, these are inexact estimates, depending on the ratio between the sets Johnson-Pynn et al. Once children can represent objects mentally, they also can make exact correspondences between these nonverbal representations and eventually develop a quantitative notion of that comparison e. Even these correspondences, however, do not imply a cardinal representation of the collection. To complete the subitizing process, children must make word—word mappings between numbers e. They then label small number situations with the corresponding number word, mapping the number word to the numerosity property of the collection.

That is, they begin to establish what mathematicians call a numerical equivalence class. The construction of such schemes probably depends on guiding frameworks and principles developed through interactions with others, such as parents and educators. Ericsson et al. Activities such as teachers challenging students to name the number of dots in a display shown only for seconds have resulted in substantial growth in this ability Baroody et al. Subitizing ability is not merely a low-level, innate process, but develops considerably and combines with other mental processes.

Even though they are limited, subitizing capabilities appear to form a foundation for later connection to culturally based cognitive tools such as number words and the number word sequence and the development of exact and extended number concepts and skills. Functional magnetic resonance imaging and other studies have shown that a neural component of numerical cognition present in the early years may be the foundation for later symbolic numerical development Cantlon et al. Subitizing appears to precede and support the development of counting ability and arithmetic skills Eimeren et al.

Children who cannot subitize conceptually are handicapped in learning such arithmetic processes. Those who can subitize may be limited to doing so with small numbers at first, but such actions are useful stepping stones to the construction of more sophisticated procedures with larger numbers. Indeed, lack of this competence may underlie mathematics learning disabilities and difficulties Ashkenazi et al. Children from low-resource communities and those with special needs often lag in subitizing ability, hindering their mathematical development Butterworth, ; Chu et al.

Children with special needs in learning mathematics fall into two categories. Those with mathematical difficulties struggle to learn mathematics for any reason; this category may apply to as many as percent of students Berch and Mazzocco, Those with specific mathematics learning disabilities are more severe cases; these students have a memory or cognitive deficit that interferes with their ability to learn math Geary, This category may apply to about percent Berch and Mazzocco, ; Mazzocco and Myers, In one study, this classification persisted in third grade for 63 percent of those classified as having mathematics learning disabilities in kindergarten Mazzocco and Myers, One consistent finding is that students with mathematics learning disabilities have difficulty retrieving basic arithmetic facts quickly.

This has been hypothesized to be the result of an inability to store or retrieve facts and impairments in visual-spatial representation. As early as kindergarten, limited working memory and speed of cognitive processing may be problems for these children Geary et al. Many young children with learning disabilities in reading show a similar rapid-naming deficit for letters and words Siegel and Mazabel, ; Steacy et al. Another possibility is that a lack of higher-order, or executive, control of verbal material causes difficulty learning basic arithmetic facts or combinations.

For example, students with mathematics learning disabilities may have difficulty inhibiting irrelevant associations. One explanation for the difficulty students with mathematics learning disabilities have learning basic arithmetic combinations might be delays in understanding counting.

These students may not fully understand counting nor recognize errors in counting as late as second grade. Other experts, however, claim that a lack of specific competencies, such as subitizing, is more important Berch and Mazzocco, Some evidence suggests that it is possible to predict which kindergartners are at risk for mathematics learning disabilities based on skill including reading numerals, number constancy, magnitude judgments of one-digit numbers, or mental addition of one-digit numbers Mazzocco and Thompson, However, until more is known, students should be classified as having mathematics learning disabilities only with great caution and.

Such labeling in the earliest years could do more harm than good Clements and Sarama, It can appear that language is less of a concern in mathematics compared to other subjects because it is assumed to be based on numbers or symbols, but this is not the case Clements et al. In fact, children learn math mainly from oral language, rather than from mathematical symbolism or textbooks Janzen, Vocabulary and knowledge of print are both predictors of later numeracy Purpura et al.

Similarly, growth in mathematics from kindergarten to third grade is related to both early numerical skills and phonological processing Vukovic, In one study of linguistically and ethnically diverse children aged years, language ability predicted gains in geometry, probability, and data analysis but not in arithmetic or algebra controlling for reading ability, visual—spatial working memory, and gender Vukovic and Lesaux, Thus, language may affect how children make meaning of mathematics but not its complex arithmetic procedures.

Moreover, there is an important bidirectional relationship between learning in mathematics and language Sarama et al. Each has related developmental milestones. Children learn number words at the same time as other linguistic labels. Most children recognize by the age of 2 which words are for numbers and use them only in appropriate contexts Fuson, Each also has related developmental patterns, with learning progressing along similar paths. In both, children recognize the whole before its parts. In learning language, this is word before syllable, syllable before rime-onset, and rime-onset before phoneme see also Anthony et al.

Similarly in mathematics, numbers are first conceptualized as unbreakable categories and then later as composites e. By 6 years old in most cultures, children have been exposed to symbol representations that are both alphabetic and numerical, and they begin to be able to segment words into phonemes and numbers into singletons e. The ability to identify the component nature of words and numbers predicts the ability to read Adams, ; Stanovich and Siegel, and to compute Geary, , In addition to these similarities in typical developmental pathways, many children with learn-. Furthermore, there appear to be shared competencies between the two subject areas.

Beginning mathematics scores have been shown to be highly predictive of subsequent achievement in both reading and mathematics although beginning reading skills such as letter recognition, word identification, and word sounds were shown to be highly predictive of later reading advanced competencies such as evaluation but not mathematics learning Duncan et al.

Building Blocks children performed the same as the children in the control group on letter recognition and on three oral language subscales but outperformed them on four subscales: ability to recall key words, use of complex utterances, willingness to reproduce narratives independently, and inference Sarama et al. These skills had no explicit relation to the math curriculum. Similarly, a study of 5- to 7-year-olds showed that an early mathematics and logical-mathematical intervention increased later scores in English by 14 percentile points Shayer and Adhami, Time on task or time on instruction does affect learning, which naturally leads to consideration of potential conflicts or tradeoffs between time spent on different subjects e.

However, this assumes that mathematics activities will not have a positive effect on language and literacy.

Better Brains for Babies | Recent Research on the Brain and Early Childhood Development

Yet as described here, evidence from both educational and psychological research suggests the potential for high-quality instruction in each to have mutual benefits for learning in both subjects. Rich mathematical activities, such as discussing multiple solutions and solving narrative story problems, can help lay the groundwork for literacy through language development, while rich literacy activities can help lay the groundwork for mathematics development Sarama et al.

For mathematics learning in children who are dual language learners, the language, not just the vocabulary, of mathematics need to be addressed Clements and Sarama, Challenges for dual language learners include both technical vocabulary, which can range in how similar or distinct terms are from everyday language, and the use of complex noun phrases. On the other hand, bilingual children often can understand a mathematical idea more readily because, after using different terms for it in different languages, they comprehend that the mathematical idea is abstract, and not tied to a specific term see Secada, At a minimum, their teachers need to connect everyday language with the language of math Janzen, Instructional practices for teaching mathematics with dual language learners are discussed further in Chapter 6.