About M4YC

Math for Young Children (M4YC) is an ongoing, Ontario-based research program that was launched in 2011 with the goal of investigating young children’s mathematical and spatial development.

The purpose of this study is to work with teachers to:

a. research how young children learn mathematics, particularly how children use spatial reasoning to support their mathematics learning;
b. identify how play-based programming supports young students’ understanding, and;
c. develop a greater understanding of student learning trajectories in mathematics for young children, and to research effective learning sequences that build spatial reasoning with young children.

We use a lesson study approach, which involves teachers and researchers working together throughout the school year to collaboratively design, implement, field-test and refine engaging and playful spatial reasoning lessons and activities. To date, the Trent University research team has worked with 18 teams of educators representing over 200 educators and 2000 students in Kindergarten to Grade 2 in two district school boards and two independent schools. The research and professional learning program was developed in response to: 1) a growing recognition of the importance of spatial reasoning for mathematical learning and development (Verdine et al., 2014); 2) widespread neglect of spatial reasoning in early years mathematics (Clements & Sarama, 2011); 3) the finding that spatial ability is highly malleable (Uttal et al., 2013); and 4) the increasing recognition that spatial reasoning provides a means of offering children new opportunities and entry points into mathematics (Mulligan, 2015).

Because of the historical lack of attention to spatial reasoning, little is known about what a mathematics instructional approach that focuses on spatial reasoning might look like, or the ways in which it supports children’s mathematics learning. Given the age of the children in this project, we have always taken a playful approach to pedagogy. Areas of mathematics that we have explored through a spatial approach with M4YC educator teams have included: composing and decomposing 5 and 10, number lines as thinking tools, patterning and algebra, 2D and 3D geometry, measurement, mapping and coding, perspective taking, mental rotations and cardinality. This large-scale, longitudinal project has led to the development of the teacher resource, Taking Shape: Activities to Develop Geometric and Spatial Thinking, Grades K-2 (Moss, Bruce, Caswell, Flynn & Hawes, 2016).