Early learning environment

Research, mostly that conducted in the North American context, has shown that children from low-income families lag behind and make less progress in early mathematical skills development than their peers from middle-income families (Jordan et al., 2007; Jordan, Kaplan, Oláh, & Locuniak, 2006; Ramani & Siegler, 2008). It has been suggested that children from low-income families have had fewer opportunities and less support from their home environment for learning early mathematical skills (Siegler, 2009). This is likely influenced by the financial constraints and lower education level of parents in low-income families (Ramani & Siegler, 2014). Family background has been found to play a less important role in children’s academic performance in Finland than in other countries (Kupari & Nissinen, 2015; Räsänen & Närhi, 2014). It has been argued that Finnish early childhood education and the general education system balance out socioeconomic differences between families.

The learning environment is an important factor in early childhood development. Here, the learning environment means learning at home and at day-care centres and kindergarten, and how it introduces and exposes children to mathematical issues is important. Children coming from an impoverished environment often lack basic concepts that would help them understand teaching in kindergarten or school.


  • Jordan, N. C., Kaplan, D., Oláh, L., & Locuniak, M. N. (2006). Number sense growth in kindergarten: A longitudinal investigation of children at risk for mathematics difficulties. Child Development, 77(1), 153–175.
  • Jordan, N. C., Kaplan, D., Locuniak, M. N., & Ramineni. C. (2007). Predicting first-grade math achievement from developmental number sense trajectories. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22(1), 36–46.
  • Kupari, P., & Nissinen, K. (2015). Matematiikan osaamisen taustatekijät. [The background variables of mathematical performance.] In J. Välijärvi & P. Kupari (Eds.), Millä eväillä osaaminen uuteen nousuun?PISA 2012 Tutkimustuloksia. [PISA 2012 Research results.] (10–27). Helsinki, Finland: Ministry of Education and Culture.
  • Ramani, G. B., & Siegler, R. S. (2014). How informal learning activities can promote children’s numerical knowledge. Oxford handbooks online.doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199642342.013.012
  • Ramani, G. B. & Siegler, R. S. (2008). Promoting broad and stable improvements in low income children’s numerical knowledge through playing number board games. Child Development, 79(2)375–394.
  • Räsänen, P. & Närhi, V. (2013). Heikkojen oppijoiden koulupolku. [Pathways to poor performance in mathematics]. In J. Metsämuuronen (Ed.), Perusopetuksen matematiikan oppimistulosten pitkittäisarviointi vuosina 2005–2012. Koulutuksen seurantaraportit 4/2013 [The report on the longitudinal study of the National Learning Assessment of Mathematical skills]. (pp. 173–224). Helsinki, Finland: National Board of Education.
  • Siegler, R. (2009). Improving the numerical understanding of children from low-income families. Child Development Perspectives, 3(2), 118–124.