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Precursor Mathematics
with Infants and Toddlers


Precursor mathematics refers to concepts that underlie or prepare the ground for more defined mathematical ideas, such as number and operations, measurement, and spatial relationships but lead to their development. They are precursors to mature conceptual understanding and skills in mathematics. This presentation introduces the content (What), child development (Who), and teaching strategies (How) of precursor mathematics.

  • The content (what) of precursor mathematics includes the concepts of attribute, comparison, change, and pattern. The focus is on the relationship between attributes and the development of number sense, shapes, and measurement.


  • Precursor mathematics develops through three overlapping stages: emerging (0-14 months), developing (12-24 months), and transforming (22-36 months). They follow a developmental path from perceptual to receptive and expressive understandings.


  • Educators nurture precursor mathematics using the "CAIR" principle--Closely Attend and Intentionally Respond, through daily routines, play activities, children's books, and conversations with infants and young children.


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Jie-Qi headshot - Jie-Qi Chen.jpg

Formerly Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Dr. Chen is a Barbara T. Bowman Professor of Early Education and the Executive Director of Early Teaching and Learning Academy at Erikson Institute, a Graduate School in Child Development in Chicago, U.S.A. A teacher first, she taught toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners, as well as elementary and middle school students. Dr. Jie-Qi (Jackie) Chen has had a long and distinguished career in the early childhood field with an international reputation as an expert in early math education, educational implications of multiple intelligence theory, classroom assessment, and teacher learning and development. She formerly served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Education, a consultant to the United Nations Children’s Fund, and a member of the Governing Board of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Dr. Chen now is a Director of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in America. 

Jie-Qi Chen, Ph.D.

Lisa Ginet, Ed.D., is the director of Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative. She has spent more than three decades as an educator in various roles: classroom teacher, child care provider, parent educator, home visitor, teacher trainer, and college faculty. She has worked in diverse settings, from child care homes and centers to elementary and middle schools to community colleges and private universities. She has taught mathematics to children from infancy to middle school and to adults in college classes and workshops. 


Lisa Ginet, Ed.D.

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