Jul 24, 2007


An intervention was created to promote emergent math skills
and math interest in preschool-aged children. The intervention consisted
of a set of math activities that could be incorporated into regular classroom
routines, such a circle time and meal time. In a random assignment study,
Head Start classes were assigned either to incorporate these activities into
their daily routine or not to use any of these activities. Children in
classes that used the activities improved their math skills significantly, in
comparison with students in classes that did not use the activities.
Additionally, children in classes that used the activities increased their
level of interest in math significantly, as measured by both teacher and
student reports.


Target population: preschool-aged children

This intervention involved incorporating math activities
into the regular classroom routine. Teachers were provided with a book of
85 math-relevant activities and used these and other activities to supplement
their existing classroom instruction. For three weeks, teachers
implemented at least one activity a day during circle time. For another
three weeks, teachers implemented two transition and meal time activities, in
addition to one small-group activity, each day. Activities used a range
of approaches and were designed to target counting, recognizing and writing
numbers, one-to-one correspondence, comparison, change operations, and
understanding numbers and quantity. Example activities included baking
pretzels in the shape of numbers, creating bar graphs, and estimation guessing


D.A., Fisher, P.H., Doctoroff, G.L., & Dobbs,
J. (2002).Accelerating Math Development
in Head Start Classrooms. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(4),

Evaluated population: 112 children from eight
classrooms in two Head Start centers served as the study sample for this
investigation. The children ranged in age from three to five and were 40%
Puerto Rican, 40% African American, 10% Anglo American, 5% Asian, and 5%

Approach: All children were individually administered
a standardized test of emergent math skills and an assessment of interest in
math activities. Teachers also completed measures assessing their
students’ level of interest in math and a survey assessing their own level of
interest in teaching math.

All classrooms were matched on full- versus half-day status
and on morning versus afternoon hours, within centers, and were then randomly
assigned to either the treatment group or the control group.

All teachers were trained in the intervention, but only
teachers of treatment classes implemented the program. Teacher training
was two hours long.

The program ran for six weeks, during which time members of
the research team checked in with teachers once a week to address any aspect of
the program that was not progressing smoothly.

Upon completion of the intervention, students and teachers
were re-assessed on baseline measures.

Results: On the whole, teachers from treatment
classrooms were very satisfied with this intervention. They gave the
program an overall satisfaction rating of 9.5 out of 10 and described 80% of
the math activities as excellent or very good.

Immediately following the intervention, children from
treatment classrooms showed significantly more improvement than children from
control classrooms on the Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA-2), with an
effect size of 1.2 – a substantively large impact. Treatment students
were significantly more likely to have learned counting, to be able to identify
“more,” and to be able to read and write numbers. Boys in the treatment
group improved significantly more than did girls. Additionally, Puerto
Rican and African American children from the treatment group improved
significantly more than did Anglo American children.

Teachers from treatment classrooms rated their students as
significantly more interested in number activities than did teachers from
control classrooms. The difference between the control students’ and
treatment students’ level of interest in counting activities and math in
general was marginally significant. During the intervention, treatment
students’ level of interest in sorting activities increased significantly,
relative to control students, but their level of interest in playing with
number-manipulative toys did not increase significantly.

Treatment children’s reported level of interest in math toys
was significantly higher than control children’s reported level of interest at
the conclusion of the intervention.

Also at post-test, compared with the control group, teachers
in the treatment group reported that they enjoyed teaching math more and that
they were more competent at teaching math.



D.A., Fisher, P.H., Doctoroff, G.L., & Dobbs,
J. (2002).Accelerating Math Development
in Head Start Classrooms. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(4),

Curriculum materials are unavailable for purchase.

KEYWORDS: Early Childhood (0-5), Children, Preschool,
Education, Academic Motivation, Educational Expectations, Academic Achievement,
Mathematics, School-based, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African-American, White
or Caucasian, Asian.

Program information last updated 7/24/07

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