Researchers were able to pinpoint a variety of ways the High 5s program helped students strengthen their math skills:

1. High5s students received an additional 75 minutes of math instruction compared to students in the control group—an increase of about 30 percent.

2. The High5s program used a different instructional approach. Students in the kindergarten control classrooms worked mostly in whole-group instruction or completed seat work, while High5s students worked in small group activities using interactive approaches and a variety of manipulatives. They also learned slightly more advanced mathematical topics, along with a wider range of topics in general.

3. Instructional climates differed, too, and students seemed to enjoy High5s math activities, with facilitators in those activities more likely to ask open-ended questions, encourage reflection, and differentiate instruction.

The achievement gap between low-income children and their higher-income peers is already noticeable in kindergarten, and it widens over time. Early intervention is one way to address that gap.

The report references past research showing that math skills are closely related to later math achievement, reading achievement, high school completion, and college attendance.

“By intervening early, the High 5s program narrowed the achievement gap between low-income children and their higher-income peers at the end of kindergarten,” says Robin Jacob.

Could this strategy help at-risk #kindergarten students close the #math gap?

Students enrolled in the High 5s program met in groups of four, with a trained facilitator, for 30 minutes three times a week. Activities were delivered in a game-like format and intended to be fun, engaging, interactive, and developmentally appropriate.

At the end of kindergarten, student math achievement was analyzed on two different measures:the Woodcock-Johnson applied problems subscale and REMA-K. The students in High 5s scored higher than the control students on the REMA-K.

The effect of the program was equivalent to about two-and-a half months of learning on the assessment, the researchers said.

The U-M researchers are now working to develop a model for such small-group instruction that requires fewer resources and could be more easily scaled.

“To date, there has been very little research about the effectiveness of small group math instruction in the early elementary school grades,” Jacob adds. “This study demonstrates that well implemented, engaging, small group instruction in math has the potential to boost math achievement.”

The Youth Policy Lab, a collaboration between the Ford School of Public Policy and the Institute for Social Research, partnered with MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization, for this research.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura