Pre-Kindergarten

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.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1920545
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2019 to Wed, 08/31/2022
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.

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. 


 Project Videos

2021 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Supporting Equitable Participation and Access

Presenter(s): Jonee Wilson, Elizabeth Adams, Danielle Moloney, Tiffini Pruitt-Britton, Anna Thorp, Temple Walkowiak, Annie Wilhelm, & Natalia Yanez Castillo


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.


 Project Videos

2021 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Young Mathematicians: Transforming PreK Learning Environment

Presenter(s): Jessica Young, Lindsay Clements, Tara Fitzgibbons, Nicole Penney, Kristen Reed, & Deborah Schifter


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.

Development and Validation of a Mobile, Web-based Coaching Tool to Improve PreK Classroom Practices to Enhance Learning

This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project will develop a new practitioner-friendly version of the Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback (CQ-REF) tool for instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813008
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

Children from low-income families often enter kindergarten academically behind their more economically affluent peers. Advancing pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teachers' ability to provide all students with high-quality early math learning experiences has potential to minimize this gap in school readiness. This project will promote pre-K teachers' use of specific teaching strategies, such as spending more time on math content and listening to children during instructional activities, that have been shown to enhance young children's learning and social skills. To enhance teachers' use of these practices, the project takes a novel approach--a mobile website that helps instructional coaches who work with pre-K teachers. The Classroom Quality Real-time Empirically-based Feedback tool (CQ-REF) will guide coaches' ability to observe specific teacher practices in their classrooms and then provide feedback to help teachers evaluate their practices and set goals for improvement.  Practically, the CQ-REF addresses the need for accessible, real-time feedback on high quality pre-K classroom teaching.

This project focuses on developing a new practitioner-friendly version of the CQ-REF, originally designed as a research tool for evaluating the quality of classroom teaching, for use by coaches and teachers. At the beginning of the four-year project, the team will collect examples of high-quality classroom teaching and coaching strategies. These will be used to create a library of video and other materials that teachers and coaches can use to establish a shared definition of what effective pre-K teaching looks like. In year three of the project, the team will pilot the CQ-REF with a diverse range of pre-K teachers and their coaches to determine the tool's usability and relevance. In this validation study coaches will be randomly assigned to either use the CQ-REF tool or coach in their usual manner. After one year, the CQ-REF's impact on teacher practices and student outcomes will be assessed. Outcomes of interest include teacher and student classroom behavior and children's executive function and ability in mathematics, literacy and science. Concurrently, an external evaluation team will examine how the coaching is being conducted and used, and participants' impressions of the coaching process. In the fourth and final year, the team will focus on refining the tool based on results from prior work and on disseminating the findings to research and practitioner audiences.

Integrating Science with Mathematics and Engineering: Linking Home and School Learning for All Young Learners

This study will investigate the integration of science with mathematics and engineering and develop resources that provide preschool children with integrated STEM learning experiences. The study will also investigate the connection between home and school learning and will develop resources that strengthen children's experiences at school and home.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813280
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Mon, 02/28/2022
Full Description: 

Children in preschool programs have few opportunities to engage meaningfully in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. This is especially true in programs serving children from low-income communities, where resources are scarce. This study will investigate the integration of science with mathematics and engineering and develop resources that provide preschool children with integrated STEM learning experiences. The study will also investigate the connection between home and school learning and will develop resources that strengthen children's experiences at school and home. This will include investigating the needs of and designing for dual language learners who represent a large (and growing) proportion of the population served in public preschool programs.

Using design based research (DBR), the researchers will: (1) Develop learning blueprints to guide the design of classroom and family learning resources. (2) Co-design resources with teachers and parents from low-income as well as culturally and linguistically diverse communities. (3) Conduct a series of formative pilot studies with partner teachers and parents. (4) Conduct a quasi-experimental field study in preschool classrooms and homes to examine both implementation and learning outcomes. Data sources will include observations in classrooms and homes, surveys and interviews with teachers and parents, and child learning assessments. Analysis will include qualitative approaches to examine patterns of interaction and engagement with resources in classrooms and homes, as well as quantitative approaches to examine children's learning accounting for the multilevel structure of the data. The project involves a collaboration between Digital Promise Global, Education Development Center, WGBH and multiple early childhood programs in California and New York. A total of 28 preschool centers, 56 classroom teachers, 208 families and 560 children are expected to participate. Results from this project are intended to inform understanding of how young children learn STEM, how adults at school and home can support children's early STEM learning, and what supports are useful to diverse learners specifically. Results could also highlight design principles that can inform future early STEM education research and development efforts integrating media and technology.

CAREER: Mechanisms Underlying the Relation Between Mathematical Language and Mathematical Knowledge

The purpose of this project is to examine the process by which math language instruction improves learning of mathematics skills in order to design and translate the most effective interventions into practical classroom instruction.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1749294
Funding Period: 
Wed, 08/01/2018 to Mon, 07/31/2023
Full Description: 

Successful development of numeracy and geometry skills during preschool provides a strong foundation for later academic and career success. Recent evidence shows that learning math language (e.g., concepts such as more, few, less, near, before) during preschool supports this development. The purpose of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) project is to examine the process by which math language instruction improves learning of mathematics skills in order to design and translate the most effective interventions into practical classroom instruction. The first objective of this project is to examine if quantitative and spatial math language effect the development of different aspects of mathematics performance (e.g., numeracy, geometry). The second objective is to examine how quantitative math language versus numeracy instruction, either alone or in combination, effect numeracy development. The findings from this study will not only be used to improve theoretical understanding of how math language and mathematics skills develop, but the instructional materials developed for this study will also result in practical tools for enhancing young children's math language and mathematics skills.

This project is focused on evaluating the role of early math language skills in the acquisition of early mathematics skills. Two randomized control trials (RCTs) will be conducted. The first RCT will be used to evaluate the effects of different types of math language instruction (quantitative, spatial) on distinct aspects of mathematics (numeracy, geometry). It is expected that quantitative language instruction will improve numeracy skills and spatial language instruction will improve geometry skills. The second RCT will be used to examine the unique and joint effects of quantitative language instruction and numeracy instruction on children's numeracy skills. It is expected that both types of instruction alone will be sufficient to generate improvement on numeracy outcomes compared to an active control group, but that the combination of the two will result in enhanced numeracy performance compared to either alone. Educational goals will be integrated with and supported through engaging diverse groups of undergraduate and graduate students in hands-on research experiences, training pre- and in-service teachers on mathematical language instruction, and building collaborative relationships with early career researchers. Intervention materials including storybooks developed for the project and pre- and in-service teacher training/lesson plan materials will be made available at the completion of the project.

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