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Early Math Literacy Counts!

Nicole Houston Johnson, Ed.D

Chief Partnerships and Opportunities Officer


No doubt about it, I have always been a Math Geek! As young as I can remember I was obsessed with numbers. I counted everything I saw, everywhere I went. As early as Kindergarten, I can recall counting the miniature holes in the ceiling tiles during nap time. It wasn’t til I became a math teacher did I realize how fortunate my education had been. Honestly, I took for granted how important the math foundation, I received under the teaching of missionaries at my elementary school. They enjoyed teaching math and made sure we did also. Each math lesson included vocabulary, manipulatives, and a discussion with my peers and teacher. Now “turn and talk” was not coined in the “70’s but I remember having the opportunity to discuss my learning with the students who sat next to me. We shared how we got our answer and if our methods were different our teacher would clarify if the methodology we used was appropriate. As a child, I was always eager to share my answer, see what my classmate had, and if our methods differed. Knowing that there were multiple pathways to success allowed for a certain freedom that I appreciated. One thing was clear, learning in our community was consistently about demonstrating the learning with others. This built our confidence as mathematicians and critical thinkers.

Currently our instructional team, ITTL – Increasing Teaching Transforming Learning, has been charged by the Kellogg Foundation to impact Early Math Literacy in the Delta. Given my love for mathematics, I was super excited about this project. With 25 years of experience working in education and reflecting on my own individual experiences as a young learner, I was grateful to join our team as we prepared to increase life chances for these students. Research shows that early math achievement can impact students’ success in higher graders.

“…….. kids who do well in math early on tend to do very well in school.”

Greg Duncan, Economist and Education