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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Fostering and Assessing Pre-K Children's Number Sense

Arthur J. Baroody, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Bradley Thompson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Amanda R. Johnson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Michael Eiland, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract: Non-fluency with basic facts is a common learning difficulty. Early intervention might fill gaps in informal and initial formal knowledge and keep many at risk children from a spiral of failure and becoming labeled "learning disabled." For example, helping children discover the relation between n+1 and 1+n combinations and their existing number after knowledge (e.g., "the sum of 5 + 1 is the number after 5 when we count-6") permits them to master these combinations as whole, including those combinations not previously practiced. A total of 80 at risk children (3.75 to 5.25 years in age) were tested using a game- and computer-based version of the TEMA-3 and a mental arithmetic test to gauge achievement level, to diagnose specific skill deficiencies, and to check fluency with n+0/0+n, n+1/1+n, and other addition and simple subtraction combinations. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions:

  1. semi-structured discovery learning (practice of number after, n+0/0+n, n+1/1+n, other combinations done separately in blocks),
  2. structured discovery learning (practice of a number after item, a related n+1/1+n combination, and a related n+0/0+n fact done consecutively to implicitly highlight relations-e.g. number after 3, 3 + 1, and 3 + 0 in succession),
  3. structured discovery learning + explicit instruction on patterns/relations, and
  4. haphazard practice.

Practice was done in the context of computer-based games, and all participants practiced combinations the same number of times. The posttest included checking for transfer to unpracticed items. Theoretical, methodological, and educational implications of the results will be discussed.