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Eastern Professors Receive Funding for Spencer Foundation Proposal

Published on September 28, 2016

Eastern Professors Receive Funding for Spencer Foundation Proposal

In early September, Eastern Connecticut State University professors Jeffrey Trawick-Smith and Sudha Swaminathan received funding for their Spencer Foundation proposal titled “The Relationship of Teacher-Child Math Talk During Preschool Play To Young Children’s Mathematics Learning.” The Spencer Foundation’s mission is to fund academic work that will contribute to the improvement of education. The foundation supports education research projects with budgets of $50,000 or below. It receives more than 800 proposals per year and funds only about 10 percent of them.

“The purpose of the proposed investigation is to identify the specific types of math talk during free play time that predict children’s math learning in preschool over the course of a year,” stated Trawick-Smith and Swaminathan’s proposal. They will be administering pre- and post-test assessments of math ability to 52 three-and four-year-old participants using the Tools for Early Assessment of Mathematics. “We will then record naturalistic math talk interactions between children and teachers and code specific features of these conversations, including the math domains being discussed and the syntactic structures and discourse purposes of teacher math utterances during these conversations.

“Upon looking more carefully at the literature, we became aware of previous descriptive studies that have reported rich mathematical conversations that occur between children and teachers as they are playing in preschool — building with blocks, pretending or making puzzles, for example,” said Trawick-Smith. “The current project, for which we were awarded another Spencer Foundation grant, builds on the findings of previous research — both ours and other scholars. It is designed to add to our knowledge of play and mathematical thinking and the effects of teacher-child math talk in preschool.”

The Center for Early Childhood Education will have at least six undergraduate students working on this study. They will be responsible for assessing children’s math skills, videotaping teacher and child interactions, transcribing teacher math-related utterances and coding this “math talk.”
“Anything that can go wrong does. The only reason one does this kind of work is that the findings are thrilling and make a difference in the lives of children,” said Trawick-Smith.

Written by Anthony LaPenna

Categories: Early Childhood