Research suggests that children’s preschool mathematics knowledge is a predictor of later academic success and that strong spatial-thinking skills are key to children’s readiness for kindergarten and later STEM learning. Yet many preschoolers from underrepresented and underserved groups lack opportunities for high-quality early math learning, and children’s spatial thinking is often ignored in early childhood education environments.
EDC, WGBH Educational Foundation, and Digital Promise Global are developing and studying a preschool mathematics curriculum supplement that will help caregivers and early childhood educators foster children’s spatial orientation (SO) and math learning. The supplement features hands-on developmentally appropriate spatial learning activities, books, and digital touch‑screen tablets with augmented reality technologies.
Using a design-based research and development approach, the project is carrying out the following activities:
- Produce a set of SO activities and a digital teachers’ guide for use in preschool classrooms
- Develop, explore, and test the use of an Augmented Reality (AR) app with embedded spatial orientation tasks
- Develop a family-focused guide with SO learning activities to engage children at home
- Design a validated, hands-on assessment to understand and track preschoolers’ SO learning
- Conduct user studies and a pilot study with 700–800 preschool children and their families and teachers to test the activities and inform revisions to those activities
- Findings from this project have been shared in journals, including Teaching Young Children; shared on blogs, such as the Family Online Safety Institute and the Global Family Research Project; and spotlighted in a recent STEM For All Video Showcase video.
The project and its findings will do the following:
- Illuminate the potential for this approach to support preschoolers’ SO learning
- Advance knowledge of how to design digital activities that foster SO learning and that can be modified and tested with other domains and age groups
- Provide a model for STEM interventions that use augmented reality to facilitate children’s SO and STEM identity and support teachers’ and parents’ engagement with preschoolers’ learning
WGBH, Digital Promise, SRI International