CSMCE | Math Early On

A floor book example at Educare of Lincoln
Math Early On

Infants and Toddlers as Mathematical Thinkers

The 2019 Math Early On booklet, “Infants and Toddlers as Mathematical Thinkers: A Tribute to Carolyn Edwards,” features stories from the live work in classrooms of infant and toddler teachers over the last several years at Educare of Lincoln and at the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory. These stories celebrate the ongoing commitment and dedication to the math learning of young children at Educare of Lincoln and recognizes and celebrates infants and toddlers as mathematical thinkers and doers. It also focuses on the reasonableness and brilliance of the young child, a reflection on the teachings of friend and colleague Carolyn Edwards, a Math Early On principal investigator who passed away in 2018. This book is a tribute to her philosophy and approach to early childhood education and her vision of what Math Early On could be.


Investigators Jenny Leeper Miller, Wendy Smith, Jessica Namkung, and Victoria Molfese
Ruth Heaton
Carolyn Edwards
Lisa Knoche

Partnership with Buffett Early Childhood Fund targets preschool teachers

Math Early On, funded by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, involves a partnership between the University of Nebraska–Lincoln (UNL) and the Educares of Nebraska, part of a national network of high-quality child care centers for low-income children from birth to age 5. The goal of the Math Early On project is to offer professional development opportunities that build on the past successful professional development efforts of UNL’s NebraskaMATH and its Primarily Math initiative. The Primarily Math curriculum for primary teachers was adapted and redesigned for Math Early On to create new experiences for the purpose of enriching preschool teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching. Based on work with preschool teachers in 2014-2017, the Math Early On professional development offerings were expanded and adapted to include teachers of infants and toddlers during 2017-2019.

Math Early On improves mathematics instruction for young children by providing a comprehensive approach to making a culture of math visible and alive throughout the day in programs serving young children. This work is accomplished through improved math instruction, enriched math environments, integrated math and literacy activities, home-school partnerships and pedagogical documentation.

From 2016-2019, Math Early On has been working with the teachers at Educare of Lincoln, keeping the overall focus similar to research from prior years, when researchers worked with Educares of Omaha.

During the two-year pilot project (2015-16), UNL researchers devised and assessed professional development activities for preschool teachers at three Educare schools in Lincoln and Omaha. More than 700 Nebraska children attend Educare schools, which serve at-risk children from birth to age 5 and their families.

Since then, the team has been collaborating closely with teachers and leaders at Educare of Lincoln to adapt the format and content emphases of the professional development to be responsive to the site’s needs and school-wide goals.

The years 2017 and 2018 were a time of transition for Math Early On. The project’s principal investigator (PI), Dr. Ruth Heaton, took professional leave from UNL and co-PI Dr. Carolyn Edwards passed away from a long illness on May 31, 2018.

Edwards’ wisdom and influence has permeated all of Math Early On’s work with teachers of young children, and her philosophies and approaches to early childhood education have helped form the framework for the design of Math Early On professional development.

As the project winds down, the research team will commence plans to expand Math Early On to the nationwide Educare Learning Network Initiative and explore future opportunities with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Learning the Language of Nature

The booklet, "Learning the Language of Nature: Young Children as Mathematical Thinkers," tells some of the powerful learning stories that emerged in the Educares of Omaha at Indian Hill and Kellom and the Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory at UNL. In the model of the Hawkins exhibit, and of Italian-style documentation, the stories combine images, description, and teacher interpretation to reveal, unpack, and share moments and processes of early intellectual discovery. Building on strengths and shared perspectives, the university team and Educare leadership have planned every step of the Math Early On project together. The collaborative partnership creates, nurtures, and spreads the ideas and insights emerging within the professional development. Firsthand understanding and engagement with the goals and daily practices of Educare, as well as hopes and dreams of Math Early On, are critical to sustainability. Featured in the News: Researchers share math program processes during Italy visit