CHICAGO (September, 14 2009) — The Motorola Foundation awarded Erikson Institute a $50,000 Innovation Generation grant for its Early Mathematics Education Project, which trains preschool and kindergarten teachers to weave math into daily activities that introduce concepts like number sense, patterns, geometry and measurement.
“Innovation Generation supports programs that make science and math both real and fun for today’s students, bringing to life what they hear from their teachers every day,” said Eileen Sweeney, director of the Motorola Foundation. “The work Erikson is doing to help teachers engage students in math will help our next generation to succeed in a global, knowledge-based economy where critical thinking is no longer just a benefit, but a necessity.”
The Early Mathematics Education Project trains teachers to identify and seize teachable opportunities for math within other subjects. Literature is one of the primary inroads; for instance, creating lessons out of the repeating patterns found in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” can help kids understand math concepts in fun and natural ways.
Through workshops and on-site support from early childhood coaches over the course of the year, the project raises teachers’ proficiency and comfort levels with math. Coaches help teachers examine and improve their teaching methods through joint planning, classroom observation, and guided reflection. The Early Mathematics Education Project provides this professional development to nearly 100 Chicago Public Schools preschool and kindergarten teachers each year.
Recently the Early Mathematics Education Project conducted a study of its work with Chicago Public Schools teachers, comparing the spring and fall test scores of 285 children. It showed that children whose teachers received the Early Math training learned significantly more mathematics over the course of the 2008-2009 school year. Also, children who started out behind in mathematics but had teachers in the program made more progress than their peers, essentially catching up to them.