A Study of Early Childhood Mathematics Teaching in the United States and China

Xia Li, Liping Chi, Mary DeBey, Arthur J. Baroody

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Findings: The present study involved using a questionnaire to investigate the mathematics teaching practices of 74 U.S. and 67 Chinese early childhood teachers. Quantitative and qualitative analyses yielded several key findings. First, U.S. teachers are less intentional in mathematics teaching than their Chinese counterparts. Specifically, 27% of the U.S. participants did not set any goals for mathematics, and 20% did not use a curriculum or any resources. In contrast, 3% of the Chinese participants fell into each of these categories. Second, early childhood mathematics content in the United States appears to be broader and less differentiated by age group than in China. Lastly, emerging curriculum (mathematics learning that emerges from children's play, activities, and routines) is the prevailing approach for 3- and 4-year-olds in the United States. In comparison, mathematics-specific teaching is the primary, but not sole, form of instruction in China. Practice or Policy: These findings have important implications for implementing the Common Core mathematics standards in the early years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-478
Number of pages29
JournalEarly Education and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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