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IES Grant

Title: Early Learning in Mathematics: Efficacy in Kindergarten Classrooms
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Clarke, Ben Awardee: University of Oregon
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 4 years Award Amount: $4,280,188
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R305A080699

Previous Grant Number: R305A080114
Previous Awardee: Pacific Institutes for Research
Co-Principal Investigators: Chard, David; Baker, Scott K.; Smolkowski, Keith; Fein, Hank

Purpose: In recent years, low levels of mathematics performance have been found among U.S. students in relation to national standards and in international comparisons. Signs of these problems appear early in students’ schooling. Unless these differences are addressed as early as kindergarten, they are likely to persist and become more difficult to remediate over time. One approach to improving achievement is to deliver effective instructional programs to all students as they enter school. Few experimental studies exist comparing the efficacy of mathematical instructional programs used in kindergarten classrooms with a range of learners. The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of the Early Learning in Mathematics (ELM) curriculum, which was developed and field tested under a previous Institute of Education Sciences grant.

Project: The ELM curriculum is designed to teach early mathematics skills including concepts and skills related to numbers and number operations, geometry, measurement and mathematics vocabulary. The researchers will use a randomized experiment to test the efficacy of the intervention. The study will be conducted in 60 kindergarten classrooms in Oregon and 60 kindergarten classrooms in Texas. All instruction will occur during the regularly scheduled kindergarten program day. All students in participating classrooms will receive the instruction of their classroom’s assigned condition. Students will be assessed at the beginning, middle and end of the school year using a combination of group-administered and individually administered assessments. Teachers will be asked to complete surveys to obtain descriptive information, and to assess their understanding and use of the curriculum.

Products: The expected outcomes of this research include published reports on the effects of the ELM curriculum on children’s mathematics achievement in kindergarten.

Structured Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to test the efficacy of the Early Learning in Mathematics (ELM) curriculum on children’s mathematics achievement in kindergarten.

Setting: The project will be conducted in urban and suburban school districts in Oregon and Texas.

Population: The population will consist of kindergarten students who display a range of ethnicities, including English-language learners.

Intervention: The ELM curriculum contains specific instructional content and instructional design principles that enable students to develop the skills and strategies to understand essential mathematics concepts. The instructional content of the ELM curriculum includes 120 lessons providing explicit instruction in number operations, geometry, measurement, and mathematical vocabulary. The instructional design component of the curriculum includes principles for scaffolding mathematics instruction for learners of different abilities along with structural features in the implementation of ELM.

Research Design and Methods: Prior to evaluating the efficacy of the ELM curriculum, the researchers will determine what, if any, additional training procedures are required for teachers to implement ELM in schools that have a large percentage of English-Language learners. Two randomized controlled trials utilizing a randomized block design, with classrooms assigned within schools to treatment and control conditions, will be used to address the efficacy of the curriculum. In Study 1, kindergarten students will receive either typical mathematics instruction (comparison condition) or the ELM curriculum for approximately one hour each day for the school year. In Study 2, the research team will test whether delivering the curriculum via whole-group or small-group instruction effects student achievement. In this study, all kindergarten students in participating classrooms will be taught using the ELM curriculum. Half of the classrooms will be randomly assigned to the whole-class condition: students will receive their instruction in a typical whole class setting; and half of the classrooms will be randomly assigned to the small-group condition: students will receive part of their instruction as a whole class and part of their instruction in small groups of approximately eight students. Teachers in these classrooms will receive professional development to implement the curriculum.

Student performance in mathematics will be measured on proximal and distal measures of mathematics achievement at pretest and posttest. Long-term student outcomes will also be assessed one-half year after treatment and control instruction, when students are in the middle of first grade. Classroom observations will be conducted on three occasions per year to determine if variables related to instructional effectiveness mediate student learning. In addition, variables associated with student and teacher classrooms characteristics hypothesized to moderate treatment impact will be collected.

Control Condition: The control condition will consist of the typical mathematics curriculum.

Key Measures: Students will be assessed at the beginning, middle, and end of the school year using a combination of group-administered and individually administered assessments. Student assessments administered to children include the Stanford Early Scholastic Achievement Test (SESAT), the Test of Early Mathematics Abilities (TEMA), the Number Knowledge Test, and Early Numeracy Curriculum Based Measures (including Oral Counting, Number Identification, Quantity Discrimination, and Missing Number).

Teachers will be asked to complete surveys to obtain descriptive information, and to assess their understanding and use of the curriculum. Teacher surveys will include a demographic questionnaire, and Stages of Concern questionnaire about the curriculum.

Data Analytic Strategy: For the analyses of student measures, the researchers will conduct a mixed-model analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) with adjustment for pretest. The mixed-model ANCOVA partitions variance into within- and between-classroom components and compares treatment and control conditions while accounting for student nonindependence. The proposed model treats classrooms as a random effect. The researchers will address most of their research hypotheses within this general multilevel model framework, where they have adequate power to detect relatively small, but educationally meaningful effects.

Project Website:

Related IES Projects: Early Learning in Mathematics: A Prevention Approach (R305K040081) and A Randomized Study of the Efficacy of a Two-Year Mathematics Intervention for At-Risk Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Students (R305A120262)


Book chapter

Clarke, B., Doabler, C.T., Baker, S.K., Fien, H., and Jungjohann, K. (2011). Pursuing Instructional Coherence: Can Strong Tier 1 Systems Better Meet the Needs of the Range of Students in General Education Settings?. In R. Gersten, and R. Newman-Gonchar (Eds.), Understanding RTI in Mathematics: Proven Methods and Applications (pp. 49–64). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

Clarke, B., Lemke, E., Hampton, D., and Hendricker, E. (2011). Understanding the R in RTI: What we Know and What we Need to Know About Measuring Student Response in Mathematics. In R. Gersten, and R. Newman-Gonchar (Eds.), Understanding RTI in Mathematics (pp. 35–49). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Clarke, B., Doabler, C.T., Smolkowski, K., Kosty, D.B., Baker, S.K., Fien, H., and Strand, C.M. (2016). Examining the Efficacy of a Tier 2 Kindergarten Mathematics Intervention. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 49(2): 152–165.

Clarke, B., Smolkowski, K., Baker, S.K., Fien, H. Doabler, C.T., and Chard, D.J. (2011). The Impact of a Comprehensive Tier I Core Kindergarten Program on the Achievement of Students at Risk in Mathematics. Elementary School Journal, 111(4): 561–584.

Doabler, C., and Fien, H. (2013). Explicit Mathematics Instruction: What Teachers can do for Mathematics Difficulties. Intervention in School and Clinic, 48(5): 276–285.

Doabler, C.T., Baker, S.K., Kosty, D., Smolkowski, K., Clarke, B., Miller, S.J., and Fien, H. (2015). Examining the Association Between Explicit Mathematics Instruction and Student Mathematics Achievement. Elementary School Journal, 115(3): 303–333.

Doabler, C.T., Clarke, B., Kosty, D.B., Baker, S.K., Smolkowski, K., and Fien, H. (2016). Effects of a Core Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum on the Mathematics Achievement of Spanish-Speaking English Learners.. School Psychology Review, 45(3): 343–361.

Doabler, C.T., Clarke, B., Stoolmiller, M., Kosty, D.B.,, Fien, H., Smolkowski, K., and Baker, S.K. (2017). Explicit Instructional Interactions: Exploring the Black Box of a Tier 2 Mathematics Intervention. Remedial and Special Education, 38(2): 98–110.

Doabler, C.T., Fien, H., Nelson-Walker, N., and Baker, S. (2012). Evaluating Three Elementary Mathematics Programs for Presence of Eight Research-Based Instructional Design Principles. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(4): 200–211.

Doabler, C.T., Nelson, N.J., Kosty, D.B., Fien, H., Baker, S.K., Smolkowski, K., and Clarke, B. (2014). Examining Teachers' Use of Evidence-Based Practices During Core Mathematics Instruction. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 39(2): 99–11.

Doabler, C.T., Strand-Cary, M., Jungjohann, K., Fien, H., Clarke, B., Baker, S. Smolkowski, K., and Chard, D. (2012). Enhancing Core Math Instruction for Students At-Risk for Mathematics Disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44(4): 48–57.