Games for Young Mathematicians is a program of research in early mathematics at the Education Development Center (EDC), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) (award number 1348564) and Heising- Simons Foundation (award numbers 2015-023 and 2016-133).
We are investigating the potential of professional development interventions to improve low income children’s academic achievement, particularly in the domains of mathematics and mastery motivation.
Each study adds to the research literature asking important questions:
- What is the role of teachers’ beliefs about learning to children’s mathematics knowledge and mastery motivation?
- Does a family math fluency intervention, focused on engaging teachers, promote children’s math learning above and beyond a math-focused PD intervention?
- What impact does a game-based intervention have on teachers’ instructional practices and language input?
As part of our work, we have developed a set of challenging mathematics games for preschool children aligned with Head Start frameworks in Mathematics. There are 2 main components to Games for Young Mathematicians:
- We train teachers to use our games with the children in their classroom and ask that they use them regularly.
- We test the effect of these games on children’s mathematics learning and persistence through individual assessments before and after the intervention.
The need for children to enter kindergarten having foundational early mathematics concepts has expanded the focus of early learning programs’ school readiness efforts from one dominated by language and literacy development to one that encompasses meaningful opportunities to explore mathematics concepts in developmentally-appropriate ways (Lee & Ginsburg, 2009; Stipek, Schoenfeld, & Gomby, 2012).
Yet despite growing recognition of the need to focus on multiple domains of learning to promote children’s school readiness, low-income children are less likely to experience high-quality, meaningful opportunities to engage with mathematical concepts either at home or in early childhood settings than are their middle-class peers (Case, Griffin, & Kelly, 1999; Duncan et al., 2007; Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, Lloyd, & Leung, 2013).
Just as low-income children often enter school behind their middle-class peers in language and literacy development, they often lag behind in mathematical knowledge as well, suggesting the need for targeted interventions that improve low-income children’s school readiness in the area of mathematics. And, as with language and literacy development, mathematics learning is most meaningful when it is integrated across the various settings where young children live and learn—at home, at early childhood programs, and in the broader community.