This research project will test the effectiveness of a preschool program, Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial, and the combination of this program with attention training, for improving the mathematical knowledge of preschool children who are especially low performing in mathematics and at highest risk for mathematical difficulties in school. The approach of combining mathematics and attention training is based on findings from developmental psychology, math learning disability research, and cognitive neuroscience that point to a strong link between mathematical learning and attention.
The project will screen ethnically and linguistically diverse children from 88 state-funded pre-K classrooms in Texas and California, resulting in 528 mathematically low-performing children who will be assessed in both their pre-K and kindergarten years. It will use a randomized controlled design with children within a classroom randomly assigned to one of three groups: a math only group, in which children receive the Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial over the course of a year with computerized training that does not affect attention; a math and attention group, in which children receive both the Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial and adaptive computerized attention training during the same time period; and a control group that maintains the usual classroom environment with no tutorial interventions for math or attention.
The Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial program teaches foundational and more advanced mathematical concepts and skills, providing opportunities for cumulative review, assessing children’s learning, and offering instructional and emotional support during learning. The attention training involves weekly computer-based activities designed to reinforce and challenge a child’s ability to sustain attention, switch attention and resist distraction.
The effectiveness of all three groups will be evaluated by comparing gains in children’s mathematical knowledge and attention abilities as well as in other academically relevant skills, such as early literacy, that are not directly targeted by the interventions.