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Female math teacher showing female students early childhood math concepts.

Early Math Collaborative

Transforming mathematics in early childhood education.

Connect with Early Math Collaborative

Transforming the Understanding, Teaching, and Learning of Early Mathematics from the Ground Up

The goal of the Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute is to expand access to math for young children.

Our program provides professional development, research, publications, conference presentations, and a robust online presence. We work closely with child care providers, early childhood teachers, teacher educators, administrators, and other stakeholders.

Our work is rooted in a set of foundational early childhood math concepts that we call “Big Ideas.” These mathematical concepts are fundamental to a young child’s understanding of mathematics and can be incorporated into any early childhood curriculum.

Through our work, we help reduce anxiety around the teaching of math in the early years. When educators are comfortable teaching math skills, they can instill a positive mindset for a lifetime of mathematical learning and thinking.

Research shows that children learn more during the school year in the classrooms of teachers in our projects than children whose teachers did not participate.

Visit the Early Math Collaborative website

Online Learning – Early Childhood Math Resources

In our Idea Library we have hundreds of foundational early childhood math resources that reflect our Big Ideas and Whole Teacher Approach to teacher development.

Female teacher teaching math to children.

Focus on the Lesson

Watch early learning math activities that bring the Big Ideas to life in early childhood classrooms

Female teacher with students learning math through play.

Focus on Play

Watch how children naturally explore and learn math through play. And see how teachers can mathematize the fun they have every day.

Female educator presenting lesson on early childhood math concepts.

Professional Development Services and Events

The best way to improve classroom instruction is to change what teachers believe and do — not just what they know. It’s the “Whole Teacher Approach” to professional development. The Whole Teacher Approach recognizes that the greatest impact comes by supporting all aspects of a teacher’s growth and development, including her/his/their attitudes, knowledge, and practice.

We partner with schools, school districts, and organizations to provide a range of professional development services about mathematics in early childhood education. Our Summer Institutes and other public events welcome any early childhood professional who desires an in-depth learning experience.

Learn more about our Approach See our Events

Early Childhood Math Concepts – Teaching the “Big Ideas”

Find These Big Ideas and More on Our Site


Sets are basic to children’s mathematical thinking and learning. They are also basic to our number system.

  • Sets can be compared and ordered.
  • The same collection can be sorted in different ways.
  • Attributes can be used to sort collections into sets.

Number Sense

Number sense is the ability to understand the quantity of a set and the name associated with that quantity.

  • The quantity of a small collection can be intuitively perceived without counting.
  • Quantity is an attribute of a set of objects and we use numbers to name specific quantities.
  • Numbers are used in many ways, some more mathematical than others.


Measurement is any process that produces a quantitative description of an attribute, such as length, circumference, weight, temperature, volume, or number. Measurement is an essentially mathematical procedure that we apply in many different contexts.

  • Quantifying a measurement helps us describe and compare more precisely.
  • All measurement involves a “fair” comparison.
  • Many different attributes can be measured, even when measuring a single object.

Early Math Teaching Research

Our research focuses on understanding teacher development in early mathematics:

  • What does it look like?
  • How is it likely to occur over time?
  • How can it best be supported?
  • What is its effect on children’s math learning?

To study these questions, we refer to the Whole Teacher Approach, a framework that informs our professional development (PD). Just as the Whole Child Approach–familiar to many in the early childhood field–directs teachers’ energy toward not only children’s cognitive development but also their social/emotional and physical development. The Whole Teacher Approach urges broader, holistic attention given to teachers as part of PD.

Learn more about our Research

Approach diagram, showing the aspects of whole teacher development

Why Math is Important in Early Childhood Education

Learn why we are so passionate about giving every child a strong foundation in math.

We Are an IL-EMPOWER Approved Learning Partner