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Don’t underestimate your kindergartener; research shows they can learn more

by AirTalk®

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Kindergarten students use a concentric circle graph to map the similarities and differences between Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King. This social studies lesson usually happens in 4th grade, says teacher Diana Enciso. Deepa Fernandes / KPCC

Pushed by Common Core standards, kindergarten teachers have put academic pressure on their students, pushing out play to make more room for letter and number drills and test prep.  

In fact, researchers in 2009 found that eighty percent of kindergarten teachers allotted less than thirty minutes of the school day for playtime. Pressure to meet higher academic standards, however, does not have to mean all fun and no play. Researchers have found that kindergarten students learn more when they are exposed to challenging content through stories, games, and art.  

In a study published in the April issue of the American Educational Research Journal, kindergartners were found to learn even more when they are exposed to more challenging content instead of simply the basics. Through fun, real-world teaching examples, 5-year-olds are highly capable of learning complicated, abstract concepts and math skills such as fractions.

What’s more, children who are taught more complicated math and reading concepts in kindergarten are more likely to do better throughout the rest of their grammar school years. However, some child development experts think pushing kindergartners further academically is unnecessary. 

Is play and social development more important than early exposure to complex ideas? Is the kindergarten curriculum already too academic?  If comprehension is possible at five years old, why should teachers wait to challenge their kindergartners?


Deepa Fernandes, KPCC’s Early Childhood Development Correspondent



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