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Study Finds that Use of PBS KIDS Content in the Classroom Improves Early Math Skills in Preschool Children

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Combining engaging media with interactive technology and teacher training improves learning

NEW YORK and MENLO PARK, Calif., Nov. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new study conducted by Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and SRI International found that the acquisition of essential early math skills, such as counting, recognizing numerals, recognizing shapes, and patterning, increased significantly among four- and five-year-old children from economically disadvantaged communities who participated in a 10-week PBS KIDS Transmedia Math Supplement initiative. Transmedia includes the use of familiar characters, settings, and stories across different media formats.

The materials featured videos and interactive content from several PBS KIDS properties, such as Sid the Science Kid, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, Curious George, and Dinosaur Train, as well as non-digital activities including books and foam shapes, designed to support the growth of math understanding.

Key findings of the 2013 Ready To Learn study include:

  • Children who used the PBS KIDS math supplement, which incorporated videos, digital games, interactive whiteboards, laptop computers, teacher support, and hands-on math materials, improved significantly in their understanding of the targeted early mathematics skills compared to the control group.  
  • Children who used the same technology without the integrated math materials did not experience the same learning gains compared to the control. 
  • Teachers who used the math supplement reported significant changes in their confidence and comfort with early mathematics concepts and teaching with technology.

"With this study, we have a better understanding of the contribution transmedia resources can make to early learning settings," said EDC's Shelley Pasnik, vice president and director of the Center for Children and Technology. "Children living in traditionally under-resourced communities were able to build foundational math skills when given necessary supports—in this case engaging digital content, opportunities to practice both on and away from screens, and knowledgeable adults—leaving them better prepared for kindergarten."

"Although early mathematics achievement has been widely recognized as a strong predictor of later school achievement, many preschool teachers have received limited training when it comes to supporting mathematics," added Carlin Llorente, senior research social scientist in SRI's Center for Technology in Learning. "This study's positive findings are the direct result of giving teachers resources that support the vital role they play in orchestrating children's learning experiences with media."

The study was commissioned by the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn initiative to evaluate math learning via interactive media. The initiative creates educational programming and outreach activities for local public television stations and their communities. This study builds on a 2009 Ready To Learn study conducted by EDC and SRI, which showed that young children's use of digital media led to gains in literacy skills. 

The study is based on a sample of 92 classrooms (46 in New York City and 46 in the San Francisco Bay Area) from preschool agencies and centers serving three- to five-year-old children primarily from low-income households. A total of 157 teachers (84 in New York and 82 in the San Francisco Bay Area) participated in the study.

The 2013 study was funded by the U.S. Department of Education through a Ready To Learn grant to CPB and PBS. The initiative was developed to enhance the reach of, and access to, innovative early math experiences for U.S. children, especially those from low-income families, who often fall behind in mathematics skills at an early age and have difficulty catching up.

"These findings are particularly significant given the growing recognition of the positive relationship between early math skills and later educational achievement," said Debra Sanchez, senior vice president for Education and Children's Content at CPB. "Educational leaders are seeking new ways to level the playing field for disadvantaged preschoolers. The study shows that PBS KIDS content, which reaches millions of children each year, can play an important role in enhancing children's learning opportunities."

To access the full study and related materials, go to: http://cct.edc.org/rtl.

About EDC
Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), is a global nonprofit organization that creates learning opportunities for people around the world, empowering them to pursue healthier, more productive lives. EDC manages 250 projects in 30 countries. EDC's Center for Children and Technology (CCT) investigates the roles technology can play to improve teaching and learning. Its work covers a range of activities, from prototype design of technology applications to professional development for teachers to strategies for ensuring equitable access to technology resources. Visit www.edc.org and www.cct.edc.org to learn more.

About SRI International
Innovations from SRI International have created new industries, billions of dollars of marketplace value, and lasting benefits to society—touching our lives every day. SRI, a nonprofit research and development institute based in Silicon Valley, brings its innovations to the marketplace through technology licensing, new products, and spin-off ventures. Government and business clients come to SRI for pioneering R&D and solutions in computing and communications, chemistry and materials, education, energy, health and pharmaceuticals, national defense, robotics, sensing, and more. Visit SRI's website at www.sri.com and Timeline of Innovation at www.sri.com/timeline to learn more.

About The Ready To Learn Initiative
The Ready To Learn initiative is a cooperative agreement funded and managed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement. It supports the development of innovative educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular focus on reaching low-income children. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution and effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach, and research on educational effectiveness.

The contents of this release were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

CONTACT: Alison Cohen, EDC acohen@edc.org, 617-618-2109; Dina Basin, SRI International dina.basin@sri.com, 650-859-3845

SOURCE Education Development Center Inc.



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