Studies have shown that math skills in early childhood are uniquely and strongly predictive of later outcomes across a range of domains and well into adulthood, including the likelihood of graduating from high school and college completion. The Making Pre-K Count and High 5s studies were designed to rigorously test the short- and long-term effects of improving children’s math experiences in prekindergarten (pre-K) and kindergarten.
Making Pre-K Count provided pre-K teachers in New York City with a high-quality, evidenced-based math curriculum (Building Blocks) and ongoing teacher training and coaching. The Making Pre-K Count study compared students who were exposed to this curriculum with their peers in pre-K as usual in public school and community-based sites. The High 5s math program was developed to offer children who had received Making Pre-K Count in pre-K in public schools hands-on, supplemental math enrichment in small groups, or clubs, outside of regular instructional time in kindergarten. The High 5s study compared students assigned to Making Pre-K Count in pre-K and High 5s in kindergarten with children assigned to Making Pre-K Count in pre-K and kindergarten as usual. The studies also compared two years of math enrichment with no math enrichment.
The studies used random assignment and tracked children through third grade to test the effects of these math enrichment programs. The confirmatory outcome examined was children’s third-grade math scores.
- Making Pre-K Count: Though not statistically significant, Making Pre-K Count had small, positive, longer-term impacts on children’s third-grade math test scores, compared with pre-K as usual in public school and community-based sites.
- High 5s: The impact of High 5s on children’s third-grade math test scores in public schools, over and above the effect of Making Pre-K Count alone, was close to zero and not statistically significant.
- Making Pre-K Count plus High 5s: Making Pre-K Count and High 5s together had moderate, statistically significant impacts on children’s math test scores, compared with pre-K and kindergarten as usual in public schools.
The study team also explored the impact of these two math interventions on children’s third-grade literacy test scores, chronic absenteeism, retention in a grade, and placement in special education. These exploratory analyses suggest that Making Pre-K Count alone and the two years of math enrichment together reduced chronic absenteeism and improved children’s literacy test scores, though findings were not always statistically significant for literacy test scores.
Taken together, the Making Pre-K Count and High 5s studies present new evidence about the long-term effects of early math interventions on children’s later outcomes. Early math enrichment experiences can lead to lasting gains for children across a variety of outcome domains, even years later. The findings suggest that high-quality early math instructional practices could make a difference, particularly for children with the greatest need.