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October 28, 2020 Wednesday 03:13:34 PM IST

A new math intervention helps narrow achievement gap among preschoolers

Teacher Insights

Children from disadvantaged backgrounds may already be behind in math by the time they reach kindergarten.  A new study from the University of Chicago offers a potential solution: By assessing a variety of specific skills one-on-one every 10 weeks, teachers can bring students up to speed more effectively—helping to reduce the achievement gap. The study was led by Profs. Stephen Raudenbush and Susan Levine, and represents the latest in decades of innovative early childhood research at UChicago.

To conduct the study, Raudenbush, Levine and their colleagues assembled a team of researchers that included statisticians, psychologists and curriculum experts. The team determined what skills to measure, as well as their statistical validity. The study assessed both numerical skills, such as counting and operations, and spatial skills like shape recognition. Simple tasks were designed for each specific skill: To measure mental rotation, for example, researchers asked children to identify an animal facing a specified direction. The research team also wanted to ensure that the system they developed would fit the classroom, helping teachers interpret data and build better instructional strategies—an example of how UChicago scholars turn rigorous research into practice.

The results were striking: By iteratively assessing students’ math skills, tailoring subsequent teaching, and reassessing over the course of the year, children in the experimental group gained far more knowledge than children in the other classrooms. For students in the experimental group, the math achievement gap closed by about 40%. Surprisingly, the verbal comprehension skills of children in the treatment group also improved significantly as compared to the control group, suggesting that tailored teaching can benefit students in multiple ways, according to Raudenbush, who chairs UChicago’s Committee on Education and has written extensively on educational inequality.

(Content Courtesy: https://news.uchicago.edu/story/new-math-intervention-helps-narrow-achievement-gap-among-preschoolers)

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