Research increasingly shows that mathematical thinking and learning begin during infancy and develop substantially throughout early childhood. During this period, children acquire an informal understanding of math that is rooted in the manipulation of concrete objects. The early math team at WestEd has been studying and supporting young children’s mathematical thinking for more than two decades. They are helping early childhood programs and parents support children’s ability to think mathematically in the United States and abroad by developing effective early math programs including Pre-K Mathematics.
Recently, a new report from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES)’s What Works Clearinghouse—which reviews evidence on education programs and interventions—determined that the Pre-K Mathematics program earned its highest rating for effectiveness. This signifies that the program has amassed a substantial evidence base to affirm that it helps to improve young children’s math learning, an exciting step forward in understanding how to close the socioeconomic achievement gap in mathematics that begins during early childhood.
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) report identified six studies that investigated the effectiveness of the Pre-K Mathematics program. The program met the WWC’s Tier 1 evidence standards in five rigorous studies, meaning there is a strong body of evidence that the program improved student mathematics achievement.
IES’s confirmation of the Pre-K Mathematics program’s effectiveness comes at an important moment for education in the U.S. The country is confronting a significant loss of learning time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as documented in historic drops in mathematics test scores on the nation’s 2022 Report Card. Research confirms that these drops also occurred during the early childhood years before kindergarten. In preschool classrooms across the country, the Pre-K Mathematics program can be implemented to accelerate young children’s mathematical learning from an early age, helping students form a strong mathematical foundation that they can build on as they advance through their education.
“Now more than ever, it is crucial that children have the opportunity to develop their mathematical thinking from an early age using evidence-based, effective supports,” said Prentice Starkey, co-author of the Pre-K Mathematics program and co-director of the Center for Early Learning within WestEd’s mathematics team. “The recent designation by IES confirms what we’ve found in our research on early childhood and mathematics: the Pre-K Mathematics program effectively supports young children as they build their mathematical knowledge.”
The Pre-K Mathematics program, an initiative of WestEd, is a supplemental curriculum for preschool classrooms. The program is designed to support and build upon young children’s informal mathematical knowledge. It includes the Pre-K Mathematics curriculum, with classroom and home math activities for young children, as well as training for teachers and local curriculum coaches.