Next Generation Preschool Math (NGPM) is an NSF-funded collaboration among researchers, media developers, and teachers that aims to develop preschool classroom activities and innovative tablet-based games to help preschool children learn sophisticated mathematics concepts crucial to early school success. This project addresses a critical need to develop quality early childhood mathematics curriculum, particularly for low-income students. NGPM is based on research that shows that (i) early mathematics learning is one of the most important predictors of later school success broadly across the curriculum; (ii) very young children are capable of learning sophisticated mathematics; (iii) technology can be used to help young children learn sophisticated mathematics; and (iv) most preschool children are exposed only to simplistic mathematics, such as counting and simple shape recognition.
As part of this effort, our collaborative team has addressed one of the most salient controversies facing preschool educators today: What, if any, are the most appropriate roles for technology in the preschool classroom, and how can technology, if used appropriately, provide unique affordances for teaching and early learning?
NGPM project developers and researchers will develop, test, and refine two curricular supplements to address the following:
(1) promote children's understanding of subitizing (key to understanding the notion of quantity and cardinality) and equipartitioning (key to understanding rational number reasoning);
(2) use interactive media on an emerging handheld platform (touch-screen tablets), integrating new multi-touch activities with existing hands-on activities;
(3) enhance opportunities for learning with interactive media through shared use with adult guides and peers; and
(4) provide professional and technical support materials for preschool educators.
The cross-disciplinary team has implemented an evidence-based curriculum design approach, creating a set of documents (learning blueprints) that detail learning goals and serve as anchors for development discussions and materials prototyping; these were used during cycles of iterative design, reviews by advisors and teachers, and research. The research team conducted several rounds of research—including user testing, piloting, and a randomized controlled trial—on the use of these materials to investigate effective teacher preparation, implementation, and learning outcomes. Our design and development model also can inform future development efforts in other areas.
Games developed in collaboration with First 8 Studios at WGBH as part of the NGPM project are now available free on Apple's App Store.
Our partner in this work, WGBH, has started a Next Generation Preschool Math blog, which you can see here.
Our other partner, SRI International, also has a webpage devoted to the project.