BUFFALO, N.Y. – For University at Buffalo Graduate School
of Education professors Doug H. Clements and Julie Sarama, the list
of federal grants that allow the husband-and-wife research team to
continue their nationally distinguished work on teaching math to
hard-to-reach pre-kindergarten children keeps growing.
Clements and Sarama, whose work in the Buffalo and Boston Public
Schools systems has attracted wide academic and popular acclaim,
have earned three new federal grants, all awarded in the last four
The latest in grant is one for $1.9 million from the U.S.
Department of Education's Institute of Education Studies (IES). The
three-year award will fund Clements' and Sarama's ongoing work to
help students learn what is known as STEM content, or Science,
Technology, Education and Math, starting from the pre-kindergarten
years and continuing throughout the elementary grades.
"This new funding will allow us to follow the progress of about
1,000 students who were involved in their early childhood project
called TRIAD (Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction,
Assessment, and professional Development)," Clements says. "These
children, from the Buffalo and Boston Public Schools, learned more
than a control group on their pre-K through first-grade years. We
will continue to gauge their learning of mathematics to study the
later impact of their increased early achievement."
Clements' and Sarama's work has already garnered acclaim from
academic journals as well as mainstream media. A 2009 front-page
story in The New York Times praised their work for being one of the
few projects in the field of cognitive science to establish a
successful track record. UB's Building Blocks program could
"transform teaching from the bottom up," according to the
The National Science Foundation (NSF) also awarded Sarama and
Clements two grants to work in early learning. In the first, a $2.5
million grant will fund efforts by Sarama and Clements, along with
colleagues (and mother-and-son team) Curtis Tatsuoka and Kikumi
Tatsuoka, to create and test a new early mathematics assessment.
This assessment will use innovative statistical and computer
technology to give teachers more useful and detailed information
about children's knowledge of mathematics in less time than
"Fast but fully informative assessments help teachers really
know their students, and support their use of the powerful teaching
strategy of 'formative assessment' or individualizing learning,"
The second NSF grant is for $3 million to combine their work on
the Building Blocks math curriculum with that of colleagues in
other fields, called the Connect4Learning interdisciplinary
curriculum. This curriculum will connect four basic domains of
learning. In addition to mathematics, the grant includes experts in
science (Kimberly Brenneman, Rutgers University), literacy/language
(Nell Duke, Michigan State University) and social-emotional
development (M. L. Hemmeter, Vanderbilt University).
"Early childhood is full of debates about subject matter, with
arguments arising about new emphases on mathematics taking too much
time away from literacy," says Sarama, principal investigator in
this study. "Science is rarely mentioned. Further, there is little
research on whether an emphasis in one area necessarily means less
emphasis in others, or whether they can be combined each to the
benefit of others.
"We believe the latter, and believe our Connect4Learning
curriculum will encourage all children to develop their full
potential in all four areas -- a potential that is greater than
In the end, the principle behind Clements' and Sarama's work is
simple but profound. It all revolves around why early learning is
"Research from educators and economists agree," Sarama says.
"The most beneficial time to enhance children's learning is the
earliest years. The main goal of all our work is to contribute to
this critical foundation of early learning."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.