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Syllabuzz: Math & Science for Early Childhood Educators

A spotlight on some of the interesting courses faculty are teaching at Elon.

By Eric Townsend

For parents of young children, as well as daycare providers and preschool teachers, singing the ABCs is second nature as toddlers begin to show an active interest in books.

What isn’t heavily emphasized, however, are the 123s or learning how to understand the wonders of the world around them. Emerging research confirms the negative effects on young children of underexposure to math and science concepts – poor performance in school and, for some, a lifelong anxiety of numbers. Heidi Hollingsworth, assistant professor of education, is one of several Elon faculty at the forefront of guiding future educators to avoid such pitfalls.

Hollingsworth teaches Math & Science for the Early Childhood Educator, which focuses on teaching students techniques for effectively developing early numeracy and critical thinking skills in boys and girls under age 5.

“Science is asking questions, figuring out how you might answer them, then trying to find those answers,” Hollingsworth says. “It starts with having questions and generating hypotheses with an approach that follows children’s interests. And kids are going to have their own areas of interest without your prompting.”

Hollingsworth’s students work in groups to design math and science enrichment activities for children. They write narrative reviews that explore their own experiences with math and science concepts and how it influenced their educational goals. Sociocultural influences on math and science knowledge also receive attention. Hollingsworth has a special interest in fostering love of math and science in young girls. For generations, there was the impression that women wouldn’t, or couldn’t, enroll in upper-level math courses or enter science-related fields.

As primary caregivers in the home, and as an overwhelming percentage of early childhood educators, women’s traditional lack of science and math engagement manifests itself in some teachers who have anxiety about and struggle to teach those subjects. That’s part of the reason the School of Education added an early childhood education major last fall.

“It’s a period in which there is so much development happening so rapidly, laying the foundation for trajectories throughout life,” she says. “Research confirms that high-quality learning experiences in the early years are critical for improving outcomes for children.”

About the professor
An adjunct instructor at Elon since 2007, Hollingsworth joined the full-time faculty last fall as an assistant professor and program coordinator for early childhood education. She taught in elementary schools in North Carolina and Virginia for a decade before earning her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2006.

Recommended readings
National Association for the Education of Young Children, naeyc.org
Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, zerotothree.org
From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, National
Research Council and Institute of Medicine

Syllabuzz is a recurrent feature in The Magazine of Elon. To read the latest edition, click here.

Keren Rivas,
9/5/2012 8:20 AM