Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Supporting Early Childhood Mathematics in the Home through Technology and Media

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 8:50 AM
Brickell South (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Carlin Llorente1, Shelley Pasnik2, Ximena Dominguez1, Jaime Gutierrez2, Savitha Moorthy1, Megan Silander2, Sara Vasquez1 and Regan Vidiksis2, (1)SRI International, (2)Center for Children and Technology, Education Development Center
Policymakers are increasingly focusing on the promise of learning during early childhood to provide a foundation for future academic, socio-emotional and health-related outcomes. Our paper argues that the controversial yet growing ubiquity of technology in children’s lives provides a critical means to influence young children’s learning. While research suggests that educational media and technology can benefit children’s learning and development, there is little guidance on how media and digital games can be integrated into young children’s lives, the conditions under which digital play can enhance children’s learning, and, specifically, how to structure and support children’s experiences with media.

Recent research findings suggest that adult mediation of children’s technology and media use—such as selecting, sequencing, supporting, guiding and demonstrating use—can play an important role in improving children’s learning outcomes. Additionally, a substantial body of research suggests that activities that take place at home between caregivers and children can increase young children’s development of mathematical skills and knowledge. In this paper, we describe a randomized controlled study that examines whether providing families with a curated set of public media resources that focus on mathematical skills affects children’s early mathematical knowledge and approaches to learning. This study is one in a larger series of studies of Ready To Learn, a partnership between the US Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Public Broadcasting Service that evaluate the use of digital media resources and their affordances for learning. 

Study participants include 196 four-year-old children and their families recruited from preschools located in low-income neighborhoods in the New York metropolitan and San Francisco Bay areas. Approximately half of families (n=101) were randomly assigned to an intervention condition consisting of media experiences structured in weekly units over 12 weeks. The remaining families (n=95) continued with their typical children’s media-use activities.

The intervention design centers on a carefully selected and sequentially organized set of public media resources, including video episodes, interstitial video, online games, and a tablet-based app. During the intervention, families were asked to follow coherent clusters of resources or “adventures” that align with four foundational mathematics skills: measurable attributes, shapes, patterns, and ordinal numbers. Researchers also provided caregivers with videos and tip-sheets regarding ways to jointly engage with their children as they interact with study media resources, and sent weekly text messages with tips to support joint engagement and the math focal skills.  Treatment families also received a tablet and laptop with broadband internet connectivity.

Our study examines whether using this curated set of public media resources influences children’s mathematics knowledge and approaches to learning based on three measures, administered before and after the 12-week study: IRT-scaled scores on a researcher-developed assessment of children’s mathematical skills and knowledge related to the four target concepts; teacher ratings of children’s approaches to learning using a standardized scale; and teacher ratings of children’s  mathematical and problem solving skills using a researcher-developed scale.  Findings should inform the design and implementation of media to support early learning as well as policy to support such efforts.