BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The research of University at Buffalo faculty
members Douglas H. Clements, PhD, and Julie Sarama, PhD, is
featured in a special section of Science magazine focused on the
value of educational programs for the earliest of childhood
learners -- children 2, 3 and 4 years old.
Effective early childhood education, the magazine states, can
have a significant impact on many aspects of adult life, such as
"your comfort with math or even the size of your paycheck."
Identifying which education programs are the most effective is
crucial to the nation's education policy and can help guide
Clements' and Sarama's "Building Blocks" pre-kindergarten
mathematics program, funded by the National Science Foundation, is
one program shown to be effective.
"Very young children have the potential to learn mathematics
that is complex and sophisticated," Clements and Sarama state in
their article, "Early Childhood Mathematics Intervention,"
published in the current edition of Science, one the premier
research periodicals in the U.S. (Their article is available here:
"Unfortunately, this potential is left unrealized for many
children throughout the world. Fortunately, researcher-based early
childhood mathematics interventions exist that increase these
children's mathematical knowledge. There is much to gain, and
little to lose, by engaging young children in mathematical
According to Clements and Sarama, mathematics is not just one
more "subject" to be learned. Mathematical thinking is "cognitively
foundational," they write. For example, preschool children's
knowledge of mathematics predicts their later school success into
high school. Further, it predicts later reading achievement, even
better than early reading skills.
The quantitative, spatial, and logical reasoning competencies of
mathematics form a cognitive foundation for thinking and learning
across subjects, according to Clements' and Sarama's article. Given
the importance of mathematics to academic success and to a nation's
economic success, all children need a robust knowledge of
mathematics in their earliest years, the UB researchers say.
The good news is that all children can develop such mathematical
knowledge and skill. Sarama and Clements have created educational
interventions that have been shown to be effective in helping all
children learn mathematics. These are structured around "learning
trajectories" -- research-based paths of learning based on a
synthesis of research in cognitive and developmental psychology and
Building Blocks' basic approach is finding the mathematics in,
and developing mathematics from, children's activity. The program's
curriculum was designed to help children extend and "mathematize"
their everyday activities, from building blocks to art and stories
to puzzles and games.
"Young children have the potential to learn mathematics that is
both deep and broad," says Sarama. "We are trying to ensure that
this potential is realized for all children."
Clements and Sarama's breakthrough work teaching very young
at-risk children the fundamentals of math, using Building Blocks,
has attracted attention by several national media outlets.
This includes a front-page story in The New York Times calling
their work one of the few projects in the field of cognitive
science to establish a successful track record. Clements' and
Sarama's "Building Blocks," could "transform teaching from the
bottom up," the Times article stated.
"Doug and Julie are exceptional researchers," says UB Graduate
School of Education Dean Mary H. Gresham. "It's wonderful that
their work with these young children is being recognized outside of
traditional educational journals. It's really important
Clements' and Sarama's research also has been funded by the U.S.
Department of Education's Institute of Educational Studies.
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.