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Title page for ETD etd-07212011-181157

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Cummings, Tracy Payne
URN etd-07212011-181157
Title Engaging children in talk about mathematics: The effects of an early mathematics intervention
Degree PhD
Department Learning, Teaching, and Diversity
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dale C. Farran Committee Chair
David K. Dickinson Committee Member
Mark W. Lipsey Committee Member
Paul Cobb Committee Member
  • early childhood
  • preschool
  • prekindergarten
  • early mathematics
  • numeracy
  • number sense
  • early intervention
Date of Defense 2011-05-31
Availability unrestricted
Many educators, organizations, committees, and curricula promote the importance of preschool children’s math talk, particularly among children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, to better prepare children for elementary school mathematics. However, there are no clear examples of preschool math talk, no specific guidance on strategies for developing this skill, and little evidence it leads to greater math achievement. Talking About Mathematics in preSchool (TAMS) was a project designed to explore these issues. Activities and strategies theorized to develop and encourage preschool math talk were piloted with 58 preschool children in three Head Start classrooms over six weeks. To test the final model of a math talk intervention, 95 preschool children enrolled in nine diverse Head Start classrooms were pre- and post-tested using five measures of achievement. Children were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions. The first condition involved a pull-out intervention where children played small group math games that developed number sense. The second condition was identical to the first condition, but children were also encouraged to engage in math talk during the games. The third condition carried on business as usual, serving as the counterfactual condition. Using linear mixed modeling, results showed that children who participated in either treatment condition made significantly greater gains on all math measures than children in the control condition. Further, children who played games with a focus on math talk showed greater gains than children who only played math games, although the differences between the gains in the two groups were not statistically significant. The same pattern of results emerged from analyses testing children’s gains on nine early numeracy skills targeted by the intervention. Children who played games with a focus on math talk gained significantly more than those in the control condition on all nine early numeracy skills. Children who only played math games gained significantly more than those in the control condition on five of those skills. Results from this study are directly relevant to the types of interactions teachers could adopt to foster children’s early math development.
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