Early Math Skills Predict High School Achievement

Dr. Greg Duncan, Distinguished Professor at UC Irvine and expert in the long-term impact of investment in early math learning, spoke this June to more than 350 education leaders at MIND Research Institute’s annual symposium, Learning Without Boundaries, in Long Beach, Calif. on early predictors of math achievement.
“Early math skills are by far the number one predictor of later achievement,” said Duncan, “ahead of reading and attention skills.”
In a recent research article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Duncan and his colleagues looked at long-term predictors of knowledge, performance and achievement of high school algebra and mathematics. The study revealed elementary-level knowledge of fractions and division greatly predict student outcomes five or six years later.
As the movement for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives continues to gain momentum, organizations are working hard to deliver the research and tools to deliver real results in math performance across low-performing schools. One math learning provider is seeing dramatic results.
Combining the latest research in neuroscience and math learning, MIND’s process-based and visual math program ST Math has seen dramatic results in schools across the country. The blended learning program integrates into classroom instruction with complex, interactive games.
Duncan reports in a recent article by California Watch that elementary students as early as Kindergarten are “ready for a variety of math concepts that can be taught in fun and playful ways.”
At the symposium, educators and administrators at Colorado Springs School District shared insights into the successST Math has had at moving the needle of math at their schools. On average, students in the district, where 53 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, completed 75 percent of the ST Math software games by the first week in May. Several students went from significantly under proficiency levels to advanced and above grade expectations by the end of the school year.
“Innovation is about doing the right stuff — inventing new ways to meet old challenges. Execution is about doing stuff well — repeated excellence daily,” said Tom Vander Ark in review of the Colorado study.
The secret to ST Math’s success is a process-based approach, which includes detailed teacher training, continued data feedback, and a blend between classroom instruction and unique game reinforcement. The program supports Duncans latest research claims identifying that, “play-based curricula designed with children’s developmental needs in mind can foster academic and attention skills in ways that are engaging and fun.”
Beyond the great performance results, Assistant Superintendent Jeanice Swift emotionally noted that ST Math’s JiJi changed the culture of her schools. JiJi is the beloved penguin found in the ST Math program. ST Math makes learning math fun while it gives students the confidence and intrinsic gratification to tackle challenging math concepts. This positive feedback and reinforcement raised the moral of classrooms.
“There’s a clear path to get every student proficient in math,” said Dr. Matthew Peterson, Co-founder of MIND and creator of ST Math, at the symposium, “and we’re on our way to achieving it.”
MIND Research Institute is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment

Charlie Mas

I have to wonder to what extent early math skills and high school achievement are correlated because they are both the result of similar factors than one having a causitive effect on the other.
Perhaps the families that are responsible for high school success first show their influence in the form of early math skills. Y'know... perhaps.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Charlie. Probably a mix of correlation and causality.

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