Pre-Kindergarten

Implementation and Efficacy Study of Preschool Math Activities for Numeracy

This project explores how teachers can use activities with young children to develop their knowledge of numbers and patterns. Part of the study examines how much guidance teachers should provide to students. The project also explores the design of resources that are the most likely to be used by preschool teachers and that can be easily incorporated into their teaching of young children.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010547
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/15/2020 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

Math games and play engage young children's interest in patterns, numbers and logic. In preschools, there is a critical need for math instruction and learning. Early childhood is an important point for children to learn about mathematics. Children's play-based activities provide natural opportunities for them to explore and learn math topics. This project explores how teachers can use activities with young children to develop their knowledge of numbers and patterns. Part of the study examines how much guidance teachers should provide to students. The project also explores the design of resources that are the most likely to be used by preschool teachers and that can be easily incorporated into their teaching of young children. The study of the use of play-based mathematics activities will support critical early learning of number concepts.

This project will investigate the implementation and efficacy of the preschool math games for mathematics learning. The research would study the materials as used in classrooms by teachers in order to understand how the materials improve early numeracy skills, and whether children's improvement is affected by how the activities are implemented in the classroom. The research questions for the study examine the role of the teacher in providing guidance to children when engaging in the numeracy activities and how the materials influence children's early numeracy skills. The study employs an experimental design to study different implementation pathways. The design would examine the impact of two different instructor types and two levels of guidance for the preschool students when using the activities. Data collected will include measures of children's mathematical knowledge and teachers' pedagogical self-efficacy and content knowledge.

Exploring Early Childhood Teachers' Abilities to Identify Computational Thinking Precursors to Strengthen Computer Science in Classrooms

This project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development to address the lack of research in early computer science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006595
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science education is a national priority with special attention to increasing the number of teachers who can deliver computer science education in schools. Yet computer science education lacks the evidence to determine how teachers come to think about computational thinking (a problem-solving process) and how it could be integrated within their day-to-day classroom activities. For teachers of pre-kindergarten to 2nd (PK-2) grades, very little research has specifically addressed teacher learning. This oversight challenges the achievement of an equitable, culturally diverse, computationally empowered society. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development in San Marcos, Texas, to address the lack of research in early computer science education. The model will emphasize three aspects of teacher learning: a) exploration of and reflection on computer science and computational thinking skills and practices, b) noticing and naming computer science precursor skills and practices in early childhood learning, and c) collaborative design, implementation and assessment of learning activities aligned with standards across content areas. The project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project includes a two-week computational making and inquiry institute focused on algorithms and data in the context of citizen science and historical storytelling. The project also includes monthly classroom coaching sessions, and teacher meetups.

The research will include two cohorts of 15 PK-2 teachers recruited from the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) in years one and two of the project. The project incorporates a 3-phase professional development program to be run in two cycles for each cohort of teachers. Phase one (summer) includes a 2-week Computational Making and Inquiry Institute, phase two (school year) includes classroom observations and teacher meetups and phase three (late spring) includes an advanced computational thinking institute and a community education conference. Research and data collection on impacts will follow a mixed-methods approach based on a grounded theory design to document teachers learning. The mixed-methods approach will enable researchers to triangulate participants' acquisition of new knowledge and skills with their developing abilities to implement learning activities in practice. Data analysis will be ongoing, interweaving qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data, including field notes, observations, interviews, and artifact assessments, will be analyzed by identifying analytical categories and their relationships. Quantitative data includes pre to post surveys administered at three-time points for each cohort. Inter-item correlations and scale reliabilities will be examined, and a repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess mean change across time for each of five measures. Project results will be communicated via peer-reviewed journals, education newsletters, annual conferences, family and teacher meetups, and community art and culture events, as well as on social media, blogs, and education databases.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Increasing the Impact of Educational Research on Practice

The focus of this conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice and to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1941494
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Full Description: 

The focus of the proposed conference is to carefully examine past and current research with an eye toward improving its impact on practice. This conference is designed to create concrete steps that could shape the nature and impact of mathematics education research for years to come. A diverse group of 50 participants will be invited to participate. Participants include 10 experienced K-12 educators whose perspectives will be used to anchor the conference in problems of practice. Other participants represent senior through more junior scholars who have demonstrated a commitment to addressing the disconnect between research and practice, along with technology experts to advise participants on capabilities and innovative uses of modern technologies for instruction, assessment and data management.

The overarching goal for the conference is to help the field of mathematics education think deeply about the most productive ways to answer the following questions: [1] Why hasn't past research had a more direct impact on practice? What can be learned from this historical analysis for future research? [2] What is a possible vision for research that would have a more direct impact on practice? What questions should be asked? What methods should be used? What concrete steps can be taken to launch the new research programs? [3] What are the implications of adopting new kinds of research programs? If they gain traction, how will such changes affect the broader education community and infrastructure, including preservice teacher education, teacher professional development, and the training of future researchers? How should the roles of researchers and teachers change? What incentive structures might motivate these changes? How will new programs of research interact with existing programs?

The Developmental Emergence and Consequences of Spatial and Math Gender Stereotypes

This project will investigate the development and emergence of spatial gender stereotypes (and their relation to math gender stereotypes) in elementary school-aged children and their impact on parent-child interactions in the pre-school period.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1920732
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

There is currently a gender gap in STEM fields, such that females participate at lower rates and have lower career attainment than their male counterparts. While much research has focused on gender differences in math attitudes, little work has explored how attitudes in a closely related STEM domain, spatial reasoning, may also contribute to the observed gender gap. The proposed research will characterize the acquisition of gender stereotypes in childhood in two key domains critical to success and participation in STEM fields: math and spatial skills. Recent evidence suggests that children acquire math gender stereotypes (i.e., the belief that "math is for boys") as early as 1st - 2nd grades, but less is known about children's attitudes about spatial abilities. This project will be one of the first to investigate the development and emergence of spatial gender stereotypes (and their relation to math gender stereotypes) in elementary school-aged children, and their impact on parent-child interactions in the pre-school period.

Eight behavioral studies involving 1290 children (Pre-K - 4th graders), 240 caregivers, and 180 adults will participate in studies that evaluate an integrated theoretical model of the relations between gender, gender stereotypes, attitudes, and abilities in the domains of math and space. In Series 1, studies will characterize the emergence of and assumptions behind spatial- and math- gender stereotypes in 1st - 4th graders, while determining how they may be acquired. In Series 2, studies will explore the real-world impacts of spatial-gender stereotypes on STEM participation and achievement in childhood. Lastly, Series 3 studies will explore the malleability of these stereotypes in the hopes of identifying ways to ameliorate their impact early in development. The project will provide training for doctoral graduate and undergraduate students. Moreover, this project will support new and ongoing collaborations with local children's museums, which facilitate interactions and communication with families, educators, and the public about the research findings. By being some of the first work to uncover the developmental origins and consequences of math and spatial stereotypes, this work may inform possible future interventions to reduce and/or eliminate the perpetuation of these stereotypes in children, long before they can have greater lifelong impacts.

Early Emergence of Socioeconomic Disparities in Mathematical Understanding

This study will provide foundational knowledge about the activities and interactions in the home environment that drive the early emergence of math skills disparities related to SES.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1920545
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The math skills of children from high income families have grown faster than those of children from middle- or low-income families resulting in a significant and persistent gap. These disparities emerge in preschool and are larger by the start of kindergarten. As children progress through school, the gap in math skills persists or even widens. Importantly, SES-related disparities in math skills have implications for long-term academic achievement and educational attainment, as well as access to STEM education and professions in adulthood. As such, there is an urgent need to identify the factors shaping early math development before children start formal schooling. This investigation will provide foundational knowledge about the activities and interactions in the home environment that drive the early emergence of math skills disparities related to SES. In the long term, findings from this work could inform home visitation programs and early care and education curricula aimed at strengthening the early math skills of children living in low resourced communities. The knowledge generated by this study has the potential to enhance equity in access to STEM education and professions for all children.

Using a longitudinal sequential study of two cohorts of socioeconomically diverse 30-month-olds (N = 320) and their parents, the proposed study will strengthen knowledge of the etiology of SES disparities in math skills by addressing three aims. First, it will examine associations between the home learning environment (HLE) and early math skills. Second, it will describe SES disparities in HLE and their implications for math learning. Third, it will test family stress and family culture as pathways through which SES shapes HLE and early math skills. Children will complete assessments of early math skills and other general cognitive abilities at age 30 months and again around 42-47 months. In addition to the child assessments at 30 months, in-home structured observations with a parent, parent surveys, and time diaries will measure the quantity and quality of children's opportunities for math learning at home. To measure family stress, parents will complete questionnaires assessing general stress as well as stress specifically related to performing and teaching math. To measure family culture, parents will complete questionnaires assessing their general and math-specific parenting beliefs and observations of family interactions will be conducted. This study will test whether domain-general and math-specific family stress and culture mediate the relation between HLE and SES. In sum, this study will make contributions to understanding the early emergence of economic disparities in early math skills. Theoretically, it will delineate whether domain-general or math-specific differences in HLE explain disparities in early math skills related to socioeconomic status. It will advance research by concurrently considering the roles of stress and culture in shaping disparities in children's opportunity to learn math in their early home environments. This project is funded by the EHR Core Research program, which emphasizes STEM education research that will generate foundational knowledge in the field.

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STEM for All Collaboratory: Accelerating Dissemination and Fostering Collaborations for STEM Educational Research and Development

This project will capitalize on the STEM for All Video Showcase and extend its impact by creating a STEM for All Multiplex. The Multiplex will draw on past and future Video Showcase videos to create a multimedia environment for professional and public exchange, as well as to provide a way for anyone to search the growing database of videos, create thematic playlists, and re-use the content in new educational and research contexts.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1922641
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

The STEM for All Collaboratory will advance educational research and development through the creation and facilitation of two related and interactive platforms: the STEM for All Video Showcase, and the STEM for All Multiplex. The Video Showcase provides an annual, online, week-long, interactive event where hundreds of educational researchers and developers create, share, and discuss 3-minute videos of their federally funded work to improve Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Computer Science education. Several years of successful Video Showcases have contributed to a rich database of videos showcasing innovative approaches to STEM education. To capitalize on the growing resource and extend its impact, this project will create a STEM for All Multiplex, a unique contribution to STEM education. The Multiplex will draw on past and future Video Showcase videos to create a multimedia environment for professional and public exchange, as well as to provide a way for anyone to search the growing database of videos, create thematic playlists, and re-use the content in new educational and research contexts. The Multiplex will host interactive, monthly, thematic online events related to emerging research and practices to improve STEM and Computer Science education in formal and informal environments. Each thematic event will include selected video presentations, expert panels, resources, interactive discussions and a synthesis of lessons learned. All events will be accessible and open to the public. The project will continue to host and facilitate the annual Video Showcase event which has attracted over 70,000 people from over 180 countries over the course of a year. This effort will be guided by a collaboration with NSF resource centers, learning networks, and STEM professional organizations, and will advance the STEM research and education missions of the 11 collaborating organizations.

The Video Showcase and the Multiplex will foster increased dissemination of federally funded work and will effectively share NSF's investments aimed at improving STEM education. It will enable presenters to learn with and from each other, offering and receiving feedback, critique, and queries that will improve work in progress and to facilitate new collaborations for educational research. It will connect researchers with practitioners, enabling both groups to benefit from each other's knowledge and perspective. Further, it will connect seasoned investigators with aspiring investigators from diverse backgrounds, including those from Minority Serving Institutions. It will thereby enable new researchers to broaden their knowledge of currently funded efforts while also providing them with the opportunity to discuss resources, methodology and impact measures with the investigators. Hence, the project has the potential to broaden the future pool of investigators in STEM educational research. This work will further contribute to the STEM education field through its research on the ways that this multimedia environment can improve currently funded projects, catalyze new efforts and collaborations, build the capacity of emerging diverse leadership, and connect research and practice.

Project Videos

2020 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: STEM for All Multiplex

Presenter(s): Joni Falk

Validation of the Equity and Access Rubrics for Mathematics Instruction (VEAR-MI)

The main goal of this project is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. The project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

Award Number: 
1908481
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/15/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

High-quality mathematics instruction remains uncommon and opportunities for students to develop the mathematical understanding are not distributed equally. This is particularly true for students of color and students for whom English is not their first language. While educational research has made progress in identifying practices that are considered high-quality, little attention has been given to specific instructional practices that support historically marginalized groups of students particularly as they participate in more rigorous mathematics. The main goal is to validate a set of rubrics that attend to the existence and the quality of instructional practices that support equity and access in mathematics classes. In addition, the project team will clarify the relationships between the practices outlined in the rubrics and aspects of teachers' perspectives and knowledge as well as student learning outcomes.

This project will make use of two existing large-scale datasets focusing on mathematics teachers to develop rubrics on mathematics instructional quality. The datasets include nearly 3,000 video-recorded mathematics lessons and student achievement records from students in Grades 3 through 8. The four phases of this research and development project include training material development, an observation and rubric generalizability study, a coder reliability study, and structural analysis. Data analysis plans involve case studies, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, and cognitive interviews. 

Learning Trajectories as a Complete Early Mathematics Intervention: Achieving Efficacies of Economies at Scale

The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) program with the goal of improving mathematics teaching and thereby increasing young students' math learning. LT2 is a professional development tool and a curriculum resource intended for teachers to be used to support early math instruction and includes the mathematical learning goal, the developmental progression, and relevant instructional activities.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908889
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Sun, 06/30/2024
Full Description: 

U.S. proficiency in mathematics continues to be low and early math performance is a powerful predictor of long-term academic success and employability. However, relatively few early childhood degree programs have any curriculum requirements focused on key mathematics topics. Thus, teacher professional development programs offer a viable and promising method for supporting and improving teachers' instructional approaches to mathematics and thus, improving student math outcomes. The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) program with the goal of improving mathematics teaching and thereby increasing young students' math learning. LT2 is a professional development tool and a curriculum resource intended for teachers to be used to support early math instruction. The LT2 program modules uniquely include the mathematical learning goal, the developmental progression, and relevant instructional activities. All three aspects are critical for high-quality and coherent mathematics instruction in the early grades.

This project will address the following research questions: 1) What are the medium-range effects of LT2 on student achievement and the achievement gap? 2) What are the short- and long-term effects of LT2 on teacher instructional approach, beliefs, and quality? and 3) How cost effective is the LT2 intervention relative to the original Building Blocks intervention? To address the research questions, this project will conduct a multisite cluster randomized experimental design, with 90 schools randomly assigned within school districts to either experimental or control groups. Outcome measures for the approximately 250 kindergarten classrooms across these districts will include the Research-based Elementary Math Assessment, observations of instructional quality, a questionnaire focused on teacher beliefs and practices, in addition to school level administrative data. Data will be analyzed using multi-level regression models to determine the effect of the Learning Trajectories intervention on student learning.

Young Mathematicians: Expanding an Innovative and Promising Model Across Learning Environments to Promote Preschoolers' Mathematics Knowledge

The goal of this design and development project is to address the critical need for innovative resources that transform the mathematics learning environments of preschool children from under-resourced communities by creating a cross-context school-home intervention.

Award Number: 
1907904
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Fri, 06/30/2023
Full Description: 

Far too many children in the U.S. start kindergarten lacking the foundational early numeracy skills needed for academic success. This project contributes to the goal of enhancing the learning and teaching of early mathematics in order to build a STEM-capable workforce and STEM-literate citizenry, which are both crucial to our nation's prosperity and competitiveness. Preparation for the STEM-workforce must start early, as young children's mathematics development undergirds cognitive development, building brain architecture, and supporting problem-solving, puzzling, and persevering, while strongly impacting and predicting future success in school. Preschool children from low socio-economic backgrounds are particularly at risk, as their mathematics knowledge may be up to a full year behind their middle-income peers. Despite agreements about the importance of mathematics-rich interactions for young children's learning and development, most early education teachers and families are not trained in evidence-based methods that can facilitate these experiences, making preschool learning environments (such as school and home) a critical target for intervention. The benefit of this project is that it will develop a robust model for a school-based intervention in early mathematics instruction. The model has the potential to broaden participation by providing instructional materials that support adult-child interaction and engagement in mathematics, explicitly promoting school-home connections in mathematics, and addressing educators' and families' attitudes toward mathematics while promoting children's mathematical knowledge and narrowing opportunity gaps.

The goal of this design and development project is to address the critical need for innovative resources that transform the mathematics learning environments of preschool children from under-resourced communities by creating a cross-context school-home intervention. To achieve this goal, qualitative and quantitative research methodologies will be employed, integrating data from multiple sources and stakeholders. Specifically, the project will: (1) engage in a materials design and development process that includes an iterative cycle of design, development, and implementation, collaborating with practitioners and families in real-world settings; (2) collect and analyze data from at least 40 Head Start classrooms, implementing the mathematics materials to ensure that the classroom and family mathematics materials and resources are engaging, usable, and comprehensible to preschoolers, teachers, and families; and (3) conduct an experimental study that will measure the impact of the intervention on preschool children's mathematics learning. The researchers will analyze collected data using hierarchical linear regression modeling to account for the clustering of children within classrooms. The researchers will also use a series of regression models and multi-level models to determine whether the intervention promotes student outcomes and whether it supports teachers' and families' positive attitudes toward mathematics.

Methods for Assessing Replication

The goal of this project is to formalize subjective ideas about the important concept of replication, provide statistical analyses for evaluating replication studies, provide properties for evaluating the conclusiveness of replication studies, and provide principles for designing conclusive and efficient programs of replication studies.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1841075
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Tue, 08/31/2021
Full Description: 

Replication of prior findings and results is a fundamental feature of science and is part of the logic supporting the claim that science is self-correcting. However, there is little prior research on the methodology for studying replication. Research involving meta-analysis and systematic reviews that summarizes a collection of research studies is more common. However, the question of whether the findings from a set of experimental studies replicate one another has received less attention. There is no clearly defined and widely accepted definition of a successful replication study or statistical literature providing methodological guidelines on how to design single replication studies or a set of replication studies. The research proposed here builds this much needed methodology.

The goal of this project is to formalize subjective ideas about the important concept of replication, provide statistical analyses for evaluating replication studies, provide properties for evaluating the conclusiveness of replication studies, and provide principles for designing conclusive and efficient programs of replication studies. It addresses three fundamental problems. The first is how to define replication: What, precisely, should it mean to say that the results in a collection of studies replicate one another? Second, given a definition of replication, what statistical analyses should be done to decide whether the collection of studies replicate one another and what are the properties of these analyses (e.g., sensitivity or statistical power)? Third, how should one or more replication studies be designed to provide conclusive answers to questions of replication? The project has the potential for impact on a range of empirical sciences by providing statistical tools to evaluate the replicability of experimental findings, assessing the conclusiveness of replication attempts, and developing software to help plan programs of replication studies that can provide conclusive evidence of replicability of scientific findings.

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