This year, Zeno has seen incredible growth in our MathWays for Early Learning Program. Along with this growth, we have made it a priority across our programs to ensure that the voice of the families we serve are a key part of our program development and evaluation. In this series, we’ll highlight some of the work we’re doing internally and in collaboration with others to ensure we are meeting the needs and address the challenges of families participating in our programs.


This edition of our Focusing on the Family series covers our partnership with a research team at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP). Lead by Dr. Geetha Ramani, the UMCP team has conducted a number of leading research studies on early childhood development, particularly early engagement with math. By partnering with Zeno, Dr. Ramani and her team are able to extend their research to the Seattle area.


What is the study about?

Through this study, the UMCP team and Zeno aim to assess:

1) The effectiveness of play-based math engagement for families from low-income backgrounds

2) How parents’ and children’s math talk while playing math games varies across 6-weeks of gameplay

The study will follow the gameplay of 30-40 families in the home. Families will be randomly assigned to play one of two games: a numeracy card game or a color & shape matching game. Families will track how often they play the games using provided tracking sheets and an audio recording device.


Who is running the study?

This study is designed and lead by Dr. Geetha Ramani, an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP). Her research focuses on how children learn early math through playful and informal learning activities with parents and teachers. Dr. Ramani has previously led several projects relating to family math fluency, including a study that examined various home-based influences on low-income preschoolers’ early numeracy skills (Ramani et al., 2015).


What is Zeno’s role?

Under the guidance of Dr. Ramani and her graduate research assistant, Nicole Scalise, Zeno will be conducting the study with families from some of our partner organizations. This includes collecting family feedback before the study begins, conducting a focus group, recruiting families to participate, conducting pre- and post- assessments of children participating in the study, and collecting data for analysis by the UMCP team.

Zeno first connected with Dr. Ramani at a Family Math Fluency gathering hosted by the University of Chicago and various funders in the fall of 2016, which brought together researchers, funders, communications professionals, and early learning practitioners to discuss opportunities to collaborate. We believe that by leveraging the combination of Dr. Ramani’s research experience and Zeno’s experience with engaging families through fun, playful activities, both teams will gain valuable knowledge around the effectiveness of math play in the home.


We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work with Dr. Ramani and her team and look forward to sharing the results of this research with you at the conclusion of the study!


Check back next month to learn about our work with Purple Group, a strategic marketing and communications firm, to design and implement Family Discussion Groups, which will allow us collect feedback about our games and programs directly from families we serve!

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