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Using Literacy to Encourage Mathematical Interest

in Preschool

2015-2016 Academic Year


Principal Investigator: Sarah Beth Tonzi, Honors Program Student (majors: Early Childhood Education and Mathematics)
Faculty Mentor: Jeffrey Trawick-Smith

One of the best predictors of later school success is mathematics knowledge in preschool (Duncan et al., 2007). In fact, early math competence is a better predictor of long term school achievement than literacy abilities. One factor that influences early math learning is a positive disposition toward this subject (Geist, 2010). Math anxiety appears far earlier in childhood than was previously thought (Maloney & Beilock, 2012). Math anxiety can be passed along from parents and teachers to very young children (Sloan, 2010). In contrast, interest in mathematics can be inspired by enthusiastic adults (Arnold, D. H., Fisher, P. H., Doctoroff, G. L., & Dobbs, J. (2002). This suggests that classroom strategies should be implemented as early as preschool to reduce math anxiety and promote math interest. This is particularly important for children who live in poverty who are already far behind their middle class peers in math learning (Crane, 1996; Kao & Thompson, 2003; Lee, Autry, Fox, & Williams, 2008; Lee, & Moon, 2007).

The purpose of this study will be to examine whether the use of math-related children's literature will affect interest in mathematics learning. Teachers in two preschool classrooms will read high quality children's books during group time. During subsequent free play periods, these books will be provided for children to look at-one book on each day of observation. In addition, an accompanying game will be offered that relates to each book. Children will be observed before, during, and after this literature strategy. The frequency of visits to the math center and the mathematical play activities children engage in will be tallied. Our hypothesis is that the literature intervention will lead to significantly greater use of the math center and more frequent mathematical play activities there.

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