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.

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.

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