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California Statewide Early Math Initiative in Local Communities: Building Educator Math Capacity

By Jennifer Marcella-Burdett, Alexa Roth, Sophie Savelkouls, Osnat Zur


This report summarizes the findings across two case studies conducted as part of WestEd’s evaluation of the California Statewide Early Math Initiative (CAEMI). The case studies aimed to understand the planning and implementation of professional learning and coaching in local communities. They also examined changes in educators’ math knowledge, confidence, and teaching practices.

The case studies utilized qualitative and quantitative methods, such as interviews, observations, and surveys, to address the following evaluation questions:

  1. How do agency facilitators engage educators in professional learning and coaching in their local communities?
  2. To what extent do the facilitators build educators’ math content knowledge, confidence in supporting children’s early math and math teaching practices?

Of the thirty agencies participating in the CAEMI, WestEd purposefully selected two agencies to study local implementation. Two county offices of education agreed to participate in the case studies.

In Case Study 1, three agency facilitators focused on spatial reasoning in professional learning and coaching offered to 14 early childhood education (ECE) teachers, nine elementary teachers, and 27 family child care (FCC) providers.

In Case Study 2, four agency facilitators addressed coding and robotics, number sense, measurement, geometry, and mathematical reasoning in the professional learning and coaching they offered to 28 preschool teachers.

The two case studies shared the overall goal of building educator capacity in early math, but their implementation plans were very different in terms of content, structure, and participants. The following list reflects the key takeaways across the two case studies. Specific examples are included in each of the case study detailed descriptions and the conclusion.

Planning and Implementation of Professional Learning and Coaching

  • The flexibility of the CAEMI grant allowed for variation in agency implementation plans, which was beneficial to tailoring supports for local communities.
  • The agencies integrated CAEMI content, hands-on activities, and resources into their local implementation.
  • The agencies provided diverse groups of educators, such as early childhood teachers, family child care providers, and elementary teachers, with access to early math professional learning.
  • The agency facilitators used a range of strategies to respond to educators’ needs, concerns, and levels of experience.

Impact on Educators

  • Educators reported significant increases in their math content knowledge, confidence in supporting children’s early math, and frequency of math teaching practices from the beginning to the end of the initiative.
  • Educators increased their awareness that math was all around them.
  • All educators rated the professional learning and coaching as very valuable.

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2020
Format: PDF
Pages: 36
Publisher: WestEd