Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Number Sense in Kindergarten: A Factor-Analytic Study of the Construct

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Number Sense in Kindergarten: A Factor-Analytic Study of the Construct

Article excerpt

Mathematics proficiency is becoming increasingly important for all individuals in today's society. Specifically, successful math achievement is necessary for the technological jobs of the 21st century and for many other daily activities (Mazzocco & Thompson, 2005). As a result of the growing emphasis on technology in today's workplace, employees are expected to display a higher skill level in mathematics than in the past (Clarke & Shinn, 2004). Furthermore, according to the National Science Board (2003), the careers with the highest rate of growth will require individuals who are proficient in math and science. Therefore, students with mathematics deficiencies may have limited career opportunities.

In addition to the limited job opportunities associated with mathematics deficiency, there are also economic consequences of poor mathematics achievement. Because math-oriented jobs tend to yield higher salaries, differences in mathematics achievement levels may contribute to the growing economic disparity among various groups in the United States. As such, there has been increased concern for individuals of lower socioeconomic status, minorities, and females because these groups generally tend to exhibit lower levels of mathematics achievement (Arnold, Fisher, Doctoroff, & Dobbs, 2002; Business-Higher Education Forum, 2005; National Science Foundation, 2003). As a result, these patterns of mathematics proficiency and career opportunities may contribute to the gender gap in salaries and to intergenerational cycles of poverty (Arnold et al., 2002). Given the importance of mathematics proficiency in today's society, it is necessary to understand current mathematics achievement among students in the United States.

Children's Achievement in Mathematics

Recent research shows that many students in the United States are failing to acquire the mathematics skills necessary to succeed both within and outside the classroom (Clarke & Shinn, 2004; National Research Council [NRC], 2001; Reese, Miller, Mazzeo, & Dossey, 1997). Furthermore, national studies examining students' math achievement indicate that students may not possess the skills necessary to meet the changing technological demands of the workplace (Clarke & Shinn, 2004). One such assessment is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is an ongoing assessment of the proficiency of America's students in various skill areas (e.g., reading, mathematics, writing). NAEP provides insights regarding the academic achievement, instructional experiences, and school environment for students in Grades 4, 8, and 12.

The 2007 NAEP results in mathematics showed that approximately 18% of students in Grade 4 and 29% of students in Grade 8 were below the basic level of achievement. Approximately 37% of fourth-graders and 32% of eighth-graders were at the basic level. The basic level is defined by NAEP as "partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work" (Reese et al., 1997, p. 53). In the same assessment, 39% of fourth-graders and 32% of eighth-graders were at or above the proficient level. Proficiency is defined by NAEP as students having "demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter" and being "well-prepared for the next level of schooling" (Reese et al., 1997, p. 53). Overall, results of the NAEP show that the majority of students are failing to meet the national standards set for proficiency in mathematics. The demand for mathematical skills in the workplace, coupled with current low levels of mathematics proficiency, suggest a need to examine how math skills develop and which early math skills are most important for later mathematics achievement. In addition, results of such research would inform early identification and intervention efforts to promote early mathematics development and prevent later failure.

Early Development of Mathematics Skills

The importance of early identification of children who are likely to experience later academic difficulties in school has been highlighted by many scholars and school-based practitioners. …

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