Big Math for Little Kids: Background and Context

April 1, 2006

What is Big Math for Little Kids?
Big Math for Little Kids (BMLK) is a preK and kindergarten curriculum developed with funding from the National Science Foundation by Herbert Ginsburg, Carole Greenes and Robert Balfanz. This culmination of four years of work, extending from 1998-2002, was an attempt to provide children with a developmentally appropriate and research-based curriculum that would help prepare them for elementary school. The authors relied heavily on the extensive body of psychological and educational research to create the program (Ginsburg & Baron, 1993; Ginsburg, 1999; Copley, 1999; Balfanz, Ginsburg, & Greenes, 2003). This body of research showed that: (1) young children are ready and able to learn mathematics; (2) children need adult guidance to reach their full mathematics potential-playing is not enough; (3) low-income children benefit from rich math learning experiences; and (4) young children are capable of learning from a comprehensive and developmentally appropriate curriculum.

Once designed, the BMLK activities were field-tested in a variety of preschool settings. These settings included public schools, parochial schools, and early learning centers in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin, and England. Authors worked with children from low-income families, children from middle-income families, and children who were just learning to speak English to ensure the curriculum's effectiveness with children from diverse backgrounds. In addition, authors collaborated very closely with teachers and used their feedback and suggestions to change, rearrange, delete, and add new activities to the curriculum. Features of Big Math for Little Kids
BMLK provides teachers with many different opportunities to help their children learn "Big Math" concepts. First, the curriculum offers teachers a sequenced, extensive and in-depth coverage of various mathematical concepts. Second, the curriculum gives teachers direct ways to connect literacy, language and mathematics. Finally, the curriculum presents opportunities for math learning to directly connect from the classroom to the home.

The BMLK curriculum covers six units: number, shape, patterns and logic, measurement, number operations, and space. Each of these math concepts is first introduced in the preK curriculum and then further developed in the kindergarten curriculum. Each unit differs in length and number of activities and teachers are meant to teach BMLK lessons on a daily basis for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Lessons involve playing games, reading storybooks and engaging in activities with children. The curriculum also includes suggestions for different ways that teachers can assess their children's mathematical understanding.


Leslie Manlapig
Melissa Morgenlander