Numbers Plus Efficacy Study
Co-Principal Investigators: Beth Marshall and Tomoko Wakabayashi
Purpose: Improving the math proficiency of children, especially those from low-income backgrounds, depends upon two factors. One is an appropriate curriculum that sequences early learning in key content areas. The second critical variable in improving math ability is the instructional competence of teachers. Unfortunately, the ability of teachers to deliver appropriate math instruction is hampered by their anxiety about teaching math, attitudes about math's importance in the curriculum, lack of knowledge regarding early math development, and inability to identify and apply appropriate teaching strategies. This project will gather information about the efficacy of the research-based Numbers Plus curriculum that is possible when teachers are given appropriate professional development support.
Project Activities: The research team will test the efficacy of the Numbers Plus preschool mathematics curriculum. The data collected as part of this project will enable the exploration of outcomes of interest for both teachers and children. Researchers will use a 4-level multi-site cluster randomized trial (MSCRT) design. Within state blocks, sites will be assigned to either a delayed treatment control or the treatment condition. In the treatment condition, teachers will receive ten days of in-depth training on preschool mathematics and early childhood development, as well as 20 coaching sessions to help them implement the Numbers Plus curriculum. This project will use experienced coaches to provide a variety of tools and strategies to help classroom lead-teachers understand early math development and effectively implement Numbers Plus in their classroom. These strategies will include self-assessment checklists; structured observation/feedback sessions; over-the-shoulder coaching; modeling; and videotaping and analysis. Together, coaches and teachers will create coaching plans and will regularly assess progress towards goals. Fidelity of implementation measures will be incorporated into the work (e.g., measures of teacher training attendance, teacher use of curriculum materials and teaching strategies).
Products: Products for this study will include evidence of the efficacy of the Numbers Plus curriculum and peer-reviewed publications.
Setting: The sample for this project is drawn from five early childhood programs across three states (Michigan, Maine, and Ohio). The Michigan programs are suburban and tuition based. The Maine programs are rural and received mixed funding. The Ohio program is urban and serves Head Start children.
Population: The sample for this study includes 22 sites and 59 classrooms. The teacher sample size is 118. The teachers will be recruited from preschool programs that require teachers to have a bachelor's degree, preferably in early childhood education. Ten children per classroom will be randomly selected to participate in the study. Across all three research sites, the final child sample will include approximately 590 children. On average across the program partner sites, children are 79 percent Caucasian, 17 percent Black, 1 percent Hispanic/Latino, and 9 percent with individualized education programs . None of the children are English language learners. Thirty-eight percent of the children are low income.
Intervention: The Numbers Plus preschool mathematics curriculum includes a set of 120 small- and large-group activities, with ideas for expanding mathematics learning throughout the program day. Aligned with the standards and focal points of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the activities address five content areas: number and operations, geometry, measurement, algebra, and data analysis. In Numbers Plus, children's mathematical learning is sequenced within (rather than across) activities. Each activity has a built-in progression and associated adult scaffolding strategies so children of all developmental and ability levels can participate successfully and have a valuable learning experience.
Control Condition: All of these partner programs use the HighScope preschool approach.
Research Design and Methods: Researchers will use a 4-level MSCRT design. Within state blocks, sites will be assigned to either a delayed treatment control or the treatment condition. In the treatment condition, teachers will receive 10 days of in-depth training on preschool mathematics and early childhood development and 20 coaching sessions to help them implement the Numbers Plus curriculum. The research team will collect child-, parent-, teacher-, and classroom-level data to address two primary research questions: (1) treatment and control group differences in child outcomes at the end of the prekindergarten year; and (2) the relationship between fidelity of implementation, teacher supports and child outcomes. Researchers will implement the intervention in preschool classrooms in three states. In each state, the research team will recruit and randomly assign programs to treatment and delayed-treatment control (DTC) conditions. In Year 1, the research team will implement the curriculum in Michigan; in Year 2, the intervention will be implemented in classrooms in Maine and the researchers will provide curriculum materials to teachers in the DTC classrooms in Michigan; and in Year 3, the researchers will implement the curriculum in preschool classrooms in Ohio and offer the intervention materials to teachers in the DTC classrooms in Maine. In Year 4, teachers in the delayed treatment control group at the Ohio research site will receive training and support to implement the curriculum.
Key Measures: The research team will conduct a document review and collect site-level data at each of the research sites. Classroom observational data will be collected using the HighScope Preschool Program Quality Assessment and the Mathematics Program Assessment. Teachers will complete a teacher background survey. Parents will be asked to complete a family background questionnaire. The Applied Problems Subtest of the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement and the Early Mathematics Assessment System will be used to assess child outcomes. Fidelity of implementation measures of adherence and exposure will be incorporated into the analyses (e.g., measures of teacher training attendance, teacher use of curriculum materials and teaching strategies).
Data Analytic Strategy: Hierarchical linear modeling will be used to test whether the treatment makes a difference in children's math outcomes while accounting for differences in children's background, as well as teacher, class and site characteristics. Two sets of analyses will be conducted to test whether teacher professional development support activities have an impact on teacher's knowledge and confidence in teaching mathematics, and the strategies teachers use in the classroom. Researchers will also conduct analyses to test for mediators of the effects of the intervention on teacher and child outcomes.
Related IES Projects:Numbers Plus: A Comprehensive Approach to Early Mathematics Education (R305K060089)