University researchers aim to improve early learning in STEM

Funding programs help a university research team stay on top of STEM developments in early education.
For University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education professors Doug H. Clements and Julie Sarama, the list of federal grants that allow the husband-and-wife research team to continue their nationally distinguished work on teaching math to hard-to-reach pre-kindergarten children keeps growing.

Clements and Sarama, whose work in the Buffalo and Boston Public Schools systems has attracted wide academic attention, have earned three new federal grants, all awarded in the last four months.

The latest in grant is one for $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Studies (IES). The three-year award will fund Clements’ and Sarama’s ongoing work to help students learn what is known as STEM content, or science, technology, engineering, and math, starting from the pre-kindergarten years and continuing throughout the elementary grades.

“This new funding will allow us to follow the progress of about 1,000 students who were involved in their early childhood project called TRIAD (Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development),” Clements says. “These children, from the Buffalo and Boston Public Schools, learned more than a control group on their pre-K through first-grade years. We will continue to gauge their learning of mathematics to study the later impact of their increased early achievement.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) also awarded Sarama and Clements two grants to work in early learning. In the first, a $2.5 million grant will fund efforts by Sarama and Clements, along with colleagues (and mother-and-son team) Curtis Tatsuoka and Kikumi Tatsuoka, to create and test a new early mathematics assessment. This assessment will use innovative statistical and computer technology to give teachers more useful and detailed information about children’s knowledge of mathematics in less time than existing assessments.

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