Math Book Wisdom: An Early Math Resource Book

I asked my husband to snap this photograph moments after my son Landon was born. The sunrise over the Lake Michigan’s horizon reminded me of a scene from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun where Diane Lane explains that the Italian phrase “to give birth” (dare alla luce) means to “give to the light.” I wanted to capture the moment. My son arriving with the sun.

Four and half years later, a different horizon has my attention. The mathematical horizon. As the result of the pandemic, Landon does not attend preschool and found myself asking: What math does a preschooler need to know? The pandemic has many parents asking questions like this. Last summer, I started a new blog ( hoping to provide a place where parents could ask mathematical questions. I only received one parent question regarding the purpose of 1st grade addition strategies (e.g., doubles plus 1). To be honest, I haven’t done much with the blog. This year, I’m re-envisioning the blog and will be sharing early math experiences and resources. I will continue to post the magical math picture books Landon and I share at and a broader collection of magical activities, games, art projects, and general picture books for preschool parents at

The book featured in this post is a different from those I’ve shared before on This book is not a picture book or a book that I share with my children. It is more of an early math wisdom book that anchors me as I navigate these new waters of early math learning. This book helps me place my “ears to the ground, listening” to my child, so I can focus my “eyes on mathematical horizon.” [Ball, 1993]. Magical resources that illuminate the mathematical horizon are important anchors for any teaching, especially in pandemic (parent-led) teaching. The book below is a resource full of magical early math wisdom.

The Book

Published in 2014 by Pearson Education, Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know was written by The Early Math Collaborative, a division of the Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL. Launched in 2007, The Early Math Collaborative works to “increase the quality of early math education through professional development, research, and providing resources related to foundational mathematics – what it is, how it develops in children, and how best to teach it.” [Erikson Website]


In Big Ideas of Early Mathematics: What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know, the Early Math Collaborative “identifies Big Ideas and Precursor Concepts to help understand the many facets involved with early math teaching and learning. They are organized under topics that teachers of young children need to explore in order to support the development of everyday math thinking” from 3-6 years old. [From EMC website]

This book consists of 10 chapters: An introduction, conclusion and 8 content area chapters in between. Each content chapter is organized around two or three different big ideas. To ground these big ideas, each chapter includes a chart with sample activities, stories and quotes from teachers, videos of classroom scenarios, and a Finding Great Math in Great Books list.

This book was written for early math teachers (ages 3-6 years old). However, as a preschool parent, this book is a valuable resource for mathematizing conversations, play, and activities at home.

The Math

The waters of early math learning are deeper and more curious than reciting the number sequence: 1, 2, 3… . Below in the table of contents you can see the broad range of content areas in early math.



Chapter 1   SETS:  Using Attributes to Make Collections

Chapter 2   NUMBER SENSE:  Developing a Meaningful Sense of Quantity

Chapter 3  COUNTING:  More than Just 1, 2, 3

Chapter 4  NUMBER OPERATIONS: Every Operation Tells a Story

Chapter 5  PATTERN:  Recognizing Repetition and Regularity

Chapter 6  MEASUREMENT:  Making Fair Comparisons

Chapter 7  DATA ANALYSIS: Asking Questions and Finding Answers

Chapter 8  SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS:  Mapping the World Around Us

Chapter 9  SHAPE: Developing Definitions


Appendix A  Big Ideas Charts

There are two or three Big Ideas in each chapter. These Big Ideas provide the reader with a clear view on the mathematic horizon of each content area. For example, in Chapter 1: Sets, the big ideas include:

Big Idea 1: Attributes can be used to sort collections into sets

Big Idea 2: The same collection can be sorted in different ways

Big Idea 3: Sets can be compared and ordered

A list of every Big Idea included in the book can be found here on Erikson’s website along with blog posts and picture book recommendations related to each big idea.

The Magic/Wisdom

As I’m not explicitly sharing this book with my children, I can’t share the “magic” as defined here. So instead I will share what I call the wisdom of this book.

This book provides a clear lens into the Big Ideas of preschool math. The Big Ideas give me a view of the mathematical horizon so that I can recognize these ideas and precursors of these ideas in conversations with my son. They inspire my choice of activities, games and projects.

This book provides activities and books focused on these big ideas of early math. I don’t need to go through Pinterest and collect 100s of activities. I don’t need to search the internet. Everything I need is in this book. I still generate my own questions and may add my own twist to activities (which I will share on, but they are anchored in ideas from the book.

This book is informed by research and classroom experiences. The authors incorporated the most current research from the fields of cognitive science and mathematics education to create a set of 26 Big Ideas that lay the foundation for early math learning and thinking. Then, the authors collaborated with more than 400 preschool, kindergarten and Head Start teachers from the Chicago area to understand how to make these Big Ideas clear to students. Quotes from teachers of young children, called Teacher Talk,” provide reflections on personal experiences in understanding and implementing the Big Ideas in the classroom. The book also points out common misconceptions (or if you prefer knowledge in transition). Embedded videos are included on a CD-Rom. These wonderful videos offer lovely ideas and images of how to help young children develop mathematical understanding around Big Ideas. 

I am so grateful for this magical wisdom book. We will be connecting back to this post and these Big Ideas as we share our magical math books this year. Our first magical book post will be in a few weeks. The book focuses on the Big Ideas of Sets and is part of the new Storytelling Math series from Charlesbridge. The Storytelling Math series is one magical set of books. [See what I did there? A set:) of books.]


If you’d like to receive these magical math book posts every month, be sure to follow this blog in the side bar of this page. Thanks and see you soon!  Touch #mathbookmagic, pass it on.  

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