Benefits for Schools and Divisions
The Value of STEP
The STEP program is a way for school division to provide their early childhood educators with professional development that is focused on improving children’s early mathematics and executive function (EF) skills.
The importance of early mathematics skills cannot be underestimated. In fact, current research suggests that children's early mathematics skills are foundational and are strong predictors of later academic success. Because of these findings, educators and policymakers are increasingly recognizing the need to promote early mathematics skills in young children, as well as measure their understanding of mathematics as they enter kindergarten. Emerging research also suggests that children’s executive function skills play a key role in supporting their mathematics. Children’s EF predicts their performance in math across the early school years, even after taking into account general cognitive abilities.
Despite this growing interest in early mathematics and the connection to children’s EF skills, teachers in the preschool classoom do not always have the resources or knowledge to support young children's mathematics learning effectively, and rarely understand the inter-connections with EF skills. The development of early mathematics skills and how to support their growth are not a focus of many early childhood degrees. And, despite their potentially central role in supporting children’s academic school readiness, and evidence of the malleability of these skills, training rarely focuses on the promotion of EF skills. And, even for teachers who do have a strong understanding and curricula to follow, finding the right strategies to individualize instruction can be time-consuming. STEP is a professional development program that gives teachers an opportunity to see what early mathematics and EF skills look like, and shares how they can support children's mathematics and EF development in fun and effective ways.
Previous participating divisions have reported that teachers:
- Engaged in more mathematics instruction and activities.
- Felt more confident supporting children's developing mathematics and EF skills.
- Supported children's mathematics and EF skills in a way that impacted students' development in both areas.
Many child care and preschool teachers feel anxious about teaching math and it often keeps them from including math instruction and activities in the classroom. This program is shifting their mindset about mathematics and their own abilities. And, our children are benefitting immensely as a result! - Virginia Preschool Division Coordinator
The STEP program can benefit school divisions by:
- Providing a professional development process that can benefit all teachers and be delivered at scale.
- Sharing strategies and knowledge that can be used without a curriculum, or support the implementation of a district's existing mathematics curriculum.
- Providing a coaching experience that is tailored to a teacher's individual needs in the classroom.
- Helping teachers gain confidence in their ability to support children's mathematics and EF skills.