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Ready To Learn Transmedia Supplement Impacts Preschool Math Learning and Teaching in Low-Income Settings

Fri, April 17, 10:35am to 12:05pm, Hyatt, Floor: West Tower - Green Level, Crystal C


Objective: To present findings from the PBS KIDS Prekindergarten Transmedia Mathematics Study, which used a curriculum supplement that featured public media videos and digital games played on interactive whiteboards and laptop computers. Children and teachers in the study had significant gains compared to the business as usual and typical technology integration condition participants. The study provides guidance for educators, administrators and policymakers about how to support early math learning and how to use digital tools to support learning in early childhood settings.

Theoretical Framework: Young children, including those in low-income communities, already use complex mathematical thinking and are able to develop new mathematical skills and knowledge (Balfanz, Ginsburg, & Greenes, 2003; Ginsburg, Choi, Lopez, Netley, & Chi, 1997). Unfortunately, children living in traditionally under-resourced communities often do not have access to stimulating and challenging preschool learning experiences needed to support their early mathematics learning, and so arrive in Kindergarten less prepared than their more affluent peers (Ginsburg et al., 2008). Developmentally appropriate digital media and technology resources have been shown to be effective with this population and may be used in educationally unique and developmentally appropriate ways by children, often with the wise guidance of parents and teachers (NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center, 2012; Penuel et al, 2012).

Methods: Researchers completed a 10-week randomized controlled trial study with three conditions: 1) the PBS KIDS Transmedia Math Supplement condition, which included an experience guide to integrating PBS KIDS video and digital games into instruction on interactive whiteboard and laptop computers, and ongoing coaching for teachers); 2) the Technology & Media condition, which included the technology and coaching but not the experience guide, and 3) the Business as Usual condition. The second study condition reflects teachers’ typical experience with technology integration: receiving technology, and integrating it into their instructional routine with minimal training and support.

Data Sources: The study included 966 children in 92 prekindergarten classrooms in New York City and San Francisco. Participating programs served families eligible for childcare subsidies. Researchers randomly assigned classrooms to the study conditions and used a range of data collection instruments with participating classrooms, children, and families, including a standardized and content-aligned mathematics assessment, teacher and coach logs, parent and teacher surveys, and observations.

Results: Intervention children improved significantly in their understanding of key early mathematics skills (counting; subitizing; recognizing numerals; recognizing, composing, and representing shapes; and patterning) as measured by the supplement-aligned assessment. Teachers who implemented the transmedia math supplement reported significant changes in their confidence and comfort with early mathematics concepts and teaching with technology. Gains were significant compared to both the BAU and Technology & Media conditions.

Significance: When teachers have the resources and support to enact a well-planned set of materials that integrate digital and traditional resources, teachers and the children in their care both benefit. The study shows that children from economically disadvantaged families learn important mathematical concepts and skills from this type of intervention, making it more likely that they arrive at school prepared to succeed along side their more affluent peers.