Learning with PBS KIDS: A Study of Family Engagement and Early Mathematics Achievement

By Betsy McCarthy, Linlin Li, Michelle Tiu, Sara Atienza, Ursula Sexton

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Description

There is an acute need in the United States to boost mathematics competencies in young children, as early mathematics ability is a strong predictor of later academic achievement. This need is particularly pressing for children from disadvantaged families.

Research has shown that family engagement can help improve preschoolers’ mathematics learning. This report supports that research, detailing WestEd’s recent study of family engagement and early mathematics learning as part of the Ready To Learn (RTL) initiative with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

The study was designed to examine:

  • The effectiveness of a school-based family engagement model in increasing preschoolers’ knowledge and skills in mathematics, and in increasing parents’ awareness of and ability to support their children’s mathematics learning in the home environment
  • The feasibility of having teachers from participating schools facilitate parent meetings related to the intervention model
  • The relationship of socioeconomic status to learning outcomes
  • How key aspects of the model affect family engagement and learning

Key Findings

  • Mathematics knowledge and skills improved for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Parents’ awareness of their children’s mathematics learning increased
  • Parents’ support of their children’s mathematics learning increased

These findings, and more, suggest that the intervention model — using a family engagement learning experience that includes PBS KIDS transmedia content — is effective in supporting families, contributes to growth in preschool children’s mathematics competencies, and can be scaled to reach a broader preschool audience.

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