Pre-K Tutor-Based Mathematics and Attention Interventions

Principal Investigators:

Marcia A. Barnes, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin

Co-Investigators:

Tricia Zucker, Ph.D., The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Mike Assel, Ph.D., The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Susan Landry, Ph.D., The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Paul R. Swank, Ph.D., The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Alice Klein, Ph.D., WestEd

Prentice Starkey, Ph.D., WestEd

Bruce McCandaliss, Ph.D., Stanford University

Funding Agency:

Institute of Educational Sciences (IES-NCSER)

Description of the Project:

This research project will test the effectiveness of combining a preschool program, Pre-K Mathematics Tutorial, with attention training in an effort to improve 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 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
  • 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.

Participants:

Five hundred twenty-eight mathematically low-performing children from ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds will be assessed in both their pre-K and kindergarten years.

Sites:

Participating sites are 88 state-funded pre-K classrooms in Texas and California.

Timeline:

2011 –2015

Information for postdoctoral fellows:

Postdoctoral fellows interested in intervention research and development of mathematical and attention skills should contact Tricia Zucker, Ph.D., for more information.