Kindergartners to Start Learning Math

Starting next year, children will be introduced to math in kindergarten, the Education Ministry decided yesterday. According to the ministry's plan, preschoolers will be taught basic geometry and numbers before they reach first grade.

The new program, which was first revealed last week, is part of the kindergartens' new core curriculum, which was drawn up last year and so far has included reading and writing lessons. Ministry officials said yesterday that the new plan will differ from the math studies currently taught by kindergarten teachers, largely as part of their own initiatives.

"The subject of math is taught over the course of attending school, but its fundamentals should be built at a young age," a ministry brochure states. "Math studies at kindergarten are of great importance - they build the foundation for future studies."

"We are not turning kindergarten into first grade," said Dr. Hana Pearl, the math supervisor at the Education Ministry. "Studies will be adapted to kindergarten and the children's abilities and yet, it will be real math they are taught."

The studies will be divided into three main subjects: The concept of numbers, geometry and daily usage of calculations such as reading a watch or using money. The first chapter of the new text book will include counting to 30 and counting backward from 10 as well as identifying items in groups and being able to differentiate them. The second chapter will deal with geometric shapes, while the third chapter focuses on acknowledging differences in relative sizes, measurements and time.

"We will not hold classes on dividing fractions," said Sima Hadad, a senior ministry official. "The subjects will be taught based on the children's first-hand experience: When children make a cake you can talk about half a cup of flour, or you can ask kids if there are enough chairs when they tidy up the kindergarten." She said math will not be taught through exercise books.

"The complexity of education at kindergartens is greater than at schools," Hadad added. "It makes it difficult but it also poses a greater challenge."

A veteran kindergarten teacher in the Tel Aviv area yesterday responded to the plan by saying that, while it sounded good in theory, in practice it may be hard to implement. "When over 30 kids are vying for my attention it's very hard to teach them each individually," she said.