The Mission of STEP
Early Math Learning
Math is essential in almost all areas of our lives. Young children are naturally curious about the mathematical world we live in. And, the U.S. Department of Education reports that career opportunities in STEM fields like mathematics will grow rapidly over the next decade.
Unfortunately, too many children in the United States are entering kindergarten without a strong foundation in mathematics and they lag behind their peers in other countries on math achievement tests. Children from families with lower levels of education and income are at even greater risk for displaying gaps in key math skills at school entry. That's where STEP comes in.
Large-scale national studies have shown that only 8% of the preschool classroom day is spent on mathematics learning
The Goal of STEP
Our goal is to Support Teachers in Enhancing Practice (STEP) - especially in two key areas: mathematics and executive function (EF).
Through the STEP program, teachers have opportunities to:
- Increase their knowledge of early math and EF learning, and how they’re connected.
- Identify evidence-based strategies that support children’s skills in both areas (math and EF).
- Hone their observation and reflection skills so they can identify instruction that’s working in the classroom, and make intentional changes and improvements to their practice.
1. Increasing Knowledge of Early Math and Executive Function
Current research shows that children who develop strong math skills in preschool are more likely to succeed in school and in life. STEP is designed to help teachers gain a strong understanding of the five areas of early math, and what young children’s developing skills look like across the early years. In addition, STEP also aims to introduce the important connection between children’s skills in early math and executive function. Recent research suggests that children’s EF skills - cognitive processes like inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility – are not only important skills in their own right. They’re also of central importance in supporting children’s math achievement. The STEP aims to help teachers see what these developing skills look like in early childhood, and how they work together to promote early math learning.
2. Identifying Evidence-Based Instruction
Many preschool teachers have never received formal instruction or guidance on teaching math to young children, and, for some, math is a content area that feels new and intimidating. Our goal is to provide teachers with evidence-based strategies to lead to effective instruction - instruction that fosters both the development early math skills as well as executive function. The STEP framework presents both targeted and foundational strategies across five areas of early mathematics that help foster children's mathematics and EF skills.
3. Honing Observation and Reflection Skills
Teachers who experience intentionally designed and high-quality professional development can make meaningful changes to their teaching practice. In turn, those changes can translate to improved outcomes for children.
Teachers using the STEP professional development program participate in an online learning and coaching process that guides their understanding of mathemathics instruction for young children. Different lessons and activities that make up the STEP learning modules help teachers see how young children learn various math skills - what each skill looks like, how to support its growth, and how EF plays an integral role in its development.
STEP also presents specific targeted and foundational strategies that teachers can use to promote both children’s mathematics and EF skills. STEP coaching then guides teachers to observe and reflect on their implementation of such strategies. Working with a coach, teachers receive individualized feedback on the instruction and identify areas of success and room for growth.