Effect of Early Childhood Mathematics Intervention

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Excelling in the STEM field has long been valued as a critical component to success in terms of financial stability. Amongst the STEM subjects, mathematics has been the earliest input onto children’s’ learning process (Harris & Petersen, 2017). However, mathematics has also been the subject often repelled upon by many individuals. Because of the subject’s complex nature, students frequently develop a negative attitude towards the subject, which results in further constraining them from absorbing advanced materials.

As a solution, in order to guide children away from the negative trajectory in mathematics, many preschools have implemented research-based early childhood mathematics interventions (Clements, 2011). By doing so, they aim to provide opportunities for children to broaden their mathematical knowledge and positive learning experiences in their earliest years. Statement of the research problem This paper addresses the problem of the effect of early mathematics intervention during preschool to the students’ long-term attitude towards learning mathematics. Early mathematics intervention is widely known to have positive effects towards later academic achievements including not only in mathematics, but also in their literacy (Watts, 2017).

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Developmental and cognitive theories have anticipated that early numerical skills play a large role in students’ future mathematical skills acquisition processes (Aunola, 2004). Since mathematics overall is a hierarchical subject, simple concepts and ideas taught at the beginning are crucial when constructing understandings of more advanced mathematics afterwards. According to the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) that ranks each country’s 15-year-old students’ performances in mathematics, reading and science, the United States has repeatedly ranked below average in mathematics since 2012 (Abby, 2016). In order to improve their global academic performance ranking, the US government has implemented the “Every Student Succeeds Act” in 2015 (Dept. Ed, 2015), which governs K-12 public education system.

However, the act has clearly overlooked the significance of early stage intervention. This problem is important to address because, in order to effectively enhance American students’ mathematics scores, it is essential that we examine the role of the fundamental period of learning. Review of related literature 1. Mathematics Achievement level in the US In the United States, there is a significant lack of emphasis in cultivating children’s mathematical abilities during their earliest years. Time solely dedicated for math is observed to be nearly nonexistent in most American preschools, where kids would receive around a minute of math instruction in a total of 6-hour school period (Hank, 2018). Waterford study have reported a correlation where 56% of children with poor literacy skills have poor performance in math, and 43% of students struggling with math find reading challenging as well (Waterford, 2017).

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results revealed that only 33% of eighth graders in the United States have been able to pass the proficiency level in mathematics (Venezky, 2018). The prominent disparity in American students’ mathematics performance and that of the rest of the world is not due to the innate ability to learn or absorb materials. Essentially, virtually all young children possess the capacity to become competent in mathematics; hence, the major key to resolve the issue is to realize the successful outcomes from implementing math in their early years (NAC, 2009). Contrary to multiple studies conducted regarding successful effect of mathematics intervention during early childhood, there are fewer studies regarding its effect towards emergence in mathematics anxiety during adolescence. 2. Mathematics anxiety Currently, there is little known about the core cause of math anxiety during adolescence. Mathematics anxiety is a form of anxiety disorders that affect performance in the knowledge domain (Luttenberger, 2018).

Diagnosed individuals report experiencing feelings of apprehension and increase in physiological reactivity when dealing with mathematical problems (Hill, 2017). In line with other forms of anxieties, the present behavioristic models explain that math anxiety emerges as an obligatory response to frequent poor math performance or failure to understand concepts despite their efforts (Watson, 1920). As Blazer states, it is not only the current students who suffer from math anxiety; approximately 93% of adults in the United States have claimed that they experience some extent of math anxiety (Blazer, 2011).

Moreover, 25% of university students have reported their experience with it as well (Moritz, 2017). As Luttenberger states, math anxiety interacts with variables such as self-efficacy or motivation in math, which can intensify or counteract math anxiety (Wimmer, 2018). In agreement with this, studies in the second half of K-12 education have pointed out distinct negative correlation between anxiety and performance in math: the higher one’s math anxiety, the lower one’s math learning, performance, and motivation (Ashcraft, 2007). Despite this clear relationship declared, PISA’s data implied that the “negative correlation between math anxiety and math performance was stronger among students who are high-performing” (Foley, 2017). Not only does the presence of anxiety affect the student’s current academic performance, it affects the number of students in the United States entering into STEM major in college (Picha, 2018).

This is concerning at the national level, because the adverse cycle of generating students with math anxiety is linked to ultimately limiting the talent pool for STEM jobs. 3. Attitude affecting performance in mathematics The emotional factor in one’s learning process plays a significant role in shaping the student’s understanding of the content and their ability to develop their existing knowledge. Ma and Kishor have proposed a base definition of ‘attitude towards mathematics’, stating: “it is an aggregated measure of liking or disliking of Mathematics, a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematical activities, a belief that one is good or bad at Mathematics and a belief that Mathematics is useful or useless” (Ma&Kishor, 1997). In response to the definition, students who perceive learning mathematics as a process, rather than a temporary product, are observed to able to obtain a relational understanding of the material. This allows them to treat the knowledge as a construct of their own work and to recognize the real-world connection it possesses. A broader scope of the issue suggest that students’ attitudes are affected by complexity of factors, such as: learning environments at home, at school and social peer group (Fraser, 2007).

As reported by the Student Achievement Division from the Capacity Building Series, “Self-efficacy, which is an individual’s belief in whether he or she can succeed at a particular activity, plays an integral role in student success” (Ontario Ed., 2011). Similarly, Nicolaidou and Philippou also demonstrated that negative attitudes are the fundamental reasons for repeated failures especially when dealing with mathematics (Nicolaidou&Philippou, 2003). Continuous vulnerability to such negative components could potentially result in a permanent physical change in the way their brains connect concepts and knowledge (Qin, 2014).

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Effect of Early Childhood Mathematics Intervention. (2022, Jul 11). Retrieved from


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