Early math skills are a strong predictor of later achievement for young children, not only in math, but in other domains as well. Exhibiting strong math skills in elementary school is predictive of later high school completion and college attendance. To that end, the Making Pre-K Count and High 5s studies set out to rigorously assess whether providing high-quality math instruction, aligned across prekindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten, could lead to long-term gains across a variety of domains for students growing up in low-income communities in New York City.
- Making Pre-K Count: At the end of kindergarten, there was a small, positive, but not consistently statistically significant effect for the Making Pre-K Count program on one of two measures of math skills, a measure that is more sensitive to children’s skill levels than the more global test used in pre-K and kindergarten. Making Pre-K Count led to positive impacts on children’s attitudes toward math at the end of kindergarten and to about two months’ greater growth in kindergartners’ working memory skills.
- Making Pre-K Count plus High 5s kindergarten supplement: Two years of aligned, enhanced math experiences led to positive impacts on the more sensitive measure of children’s math skills, both above and beyond Making Pre-K Count alone (equivalent to 2.5 months’ growth) and compared with no math enrichment in pre-K and kindergarten (equivalent to 4.2 months’ growth); effects were positive but not statistically significant on the more global measure. The effect of two years of enhanced math translates into closing more than a quarter of the achievement gap between low-income children and their higher-income peers at the end of kindergarten. Children who were offered two years of math enrichment also had more positive attitudes toward math than children with no enrichment.
These findings suggest that early enriched math instruction, particularly when aligned across years, can have a positive effect on children’s math skills, math attitudes, and working memory. The amount of math already in place was associated with the magnitude of the estimated effects of these programs. In addition, the sensitivity of the math measures used in the study may have played a role in how well each assessed math skills. The studies will continue to follow children into third grade to better understand the long-term effects of these early math programs.