Too often we hear comments such as, “I’ve never been good at math,” or “I’m not a math person.” The prevalence of such comments is evidence of a negative math culture where kids come to believe that math is tedious and inaccessible. Students fail to develop strong math skills and fall behind grade level. Ultimately this creates significant barriers to attaining post-secondary education and living-wage careers for these students.
Washington STEM reports that achievement gaps in math and science in Washington State have not improved in over a decade and are the 12th largest in the nation. By 2018, there will be a 24% increase in STEM jobs and every one of them will require a strong foundation in math. This creates an opportunity gap that is leaving too many students behind.
Early learning math skills in particular have been shown to be “more predictive of general scholastic achievement than language, attention span, or social skills” (Duncan et al 2007). This finding is particularly concerning when you consider the findings from Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS). Math readiness is the area low income students are least prepared for when entering kindergarten; setting them at a disadvantage from the beginning.
Specifically, in the Community Center for Education Results Road Map Project region, where over 50% of students are from low income families, only 24% of eligible children are being served by formal early learning programs. While ample attention is often given to concepts such as literacy and social-emotional development, the importance of foundational math concepts for early learners is often overlooked.
We know that educators and caregivers are among the biggest influencers on whether children find math engaging and relevant which will lead to their ultimate success with math. Research shows that up to 40% of in-service elementary educators have math anxiety. This can lead to an overall anxiety about teaching math which can have a negative impact on “students’ ability to learn mathematics” (Hadley and Dorward, 2011).
In our over 10 years of experience supporting math education, we have seen firsthand how a lack of early exposure to math concepts greatly increases the likelihood that children will struggle with math in elementary school and beyond.
Zeno aims to make math accessible, engaging and enjoyable, resulting in improved math confidence and competence early in life. If we want everyone to succeed in math, we must encourage children, families, and teachers to explore math in ways that are meaningful to them and emphasize its relevancy beyond the classroom.