New tools for teachers to address math learning loss

University of Oregon researchers have developed research-based programs to identify students who struggle with numbers in kindergarten, provide support at the whole-class level and equip families with home-based interventions.

This article was first published by University of Oregon Media Relations on September 18, 2023. 

EUGENE, Ore. – Sept. 18, 2023 - University of Oregon researchers have developed research-based programs to identify students who struggle with numbers in kindergarten, provide support at the whole-class level and equip families with home-based interventions. The new programs are needed to help youngsters who struggle with numbers. The pandemic compounded math learning loss and left many students further behind than their pre-pandemic peers.

Those programs include:

ROOTs: Interventions that start in kindergarten   

The transition to kindergarten comes at a critical juncture. Missed foundational skills can cause learning problems to intensify and persist over time. To ensure all children are supported and able to start on an upward curve of learning math, UO researchers developed a program called ROOTS.

The 50-lesson kindergarten program focuses on understanding and working with whole numbers and is designed to teach students at risk for difficulties in math.  “Our work focuses on developing programs that can be easily used by educators in the field to quickly intervene and provide critical math skills that enable all students to access the increasingly complex math content they encounter as they advance through school,” said Ben Clarke, professor of school psychology and director of the Center on Teaching and Learning in the College of Education. 

ROOTS and its follow-up program, Fusion, which continues the work in first grade, have undergone rigorous trials in Massachusetts, Texas and Oregon. Results have been strong for a range of learners, especially students who enter school with the greatest level of risk and those learning English as a second language.

Whole-class interventions  

Districts across the nation are struggling to meet the academic and behavioral needs of an increasingly high-needs student population. Jessica Turtura, research associate at the Center on Teaching and Learning, recently received a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to modify the ROOTs intervention to be delivered at the whole-class level.

The whole-class intervention also will blend in techniques designed to teach students behaviors that will support long-term learning.   “The program will bridge the gap between effective early mathematics instruction and positive behavior support and provide an evidence-based approach for kindergarten teachers to comprehensively support the needs of students,” Turtura said.   

Home-based interventions  

Researchers also are extending the interventions to include a home-based component for students with physical and developmental disabilities. Children with such disabilities often enter school with lower mathematics skills compared to their typically developing peers and require supplemental support in mathematics. 

“To date, many home-based math intervention studies have excluded children with disabilities,” said Gena Nelson, a research assistant professor in the Center on Teaching and Learning. “Our team is taking a unique approach to home-math interventions by engaging parents of young children with disabilities as co-designers of the activities. Our ultimate goal is to design home-based math activities that are feasible and accessible for all types of children and families.” 

While many caregivers are comfortable in supporting early literacy skills, fewer realize that they can engage children in math activities as well. Targeted home interventions offer the opportunity for students to practice and extend the concepts they are learning in school and further build their foundation for a strong start in math. 

This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation.

-By Molly Blancett, University Communications

About the College of Education   
The College of Education at the University of Oregon is a community of leading researchers and practitioners dedicated to transformational scholarship, integrated teaching, and collaborative practice designed to enhance individual lives and systems. The College of Education is UO’s highest-ranking and largest research-contributing college known for its innovative teaching and research in special education, counseling psychology, human services, education, and prevention science. The college is a leader in culturally responsive Indigenous and bilingual teacher preparation programs as well as community-based research. 

Media Contact: 
Molly Blancett 
University Communications 
[email protected]  
(541) 515-5155  

Source Contact: 
Ben Clarke  Professor
School Psychology Program 
[email protected]  

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