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The Long Reach of Early Math Skills Greg J. Duncan School of Education University of California, Irvine

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How well does kindergarten math teaching line up with what children need to learn? How important are math skills for school achievement, completed schooling and labor market success?

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What skills and behaviors matter most for success in school?

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Skills and Behaviors Achievement Engagement/ Attention Problem Behaviors Description:Concrete math and reading skills Ability to control impulses and focus on tasks i) Ability to get along with others ii) Sound mental health Example test areas or question wording: Knowing letters and numbers; beginning word sounds, word problems Can’t sit still; can’t concentrate; score from a computer test of impulse control i) Cheats or tells lies, bullies, is disobedient at school ii) Is sad, moody

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Which gaps are biggest when children enter school?

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Skill and behavior gaps between high- and low-income kindergarteners Source: Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten cohort.

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Skill and behavior gaps between high- and low-income kindergarteners and fifth graders Source: Early Childhood Longitudinal Study – Kindergarten cohort.

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How important are school-entry math skills for school achievement? How important are K-5 math skills for completed schooling? How important are adolescent math skills for labor market success?

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Effects of school-entry skills and behaviors on later achievement

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How much time do kindergarten teachers spend teaching math and literacy?

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Kindergarten teaching – hours/wk All teachers Teachers in low-income schools Reading4.95.0 Math3.1

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How does math teaching in kindergarten line up with children’s proficiency levels?

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Kindergarten student mastery vs. time spent teaching Mastery by Fall K Basic Counting & Shapes 95% Patterns & Measurement 62% Place value & Currency 25% Addition & Subtraction 7% 11,517 students2,176 teachers

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Kindergarten student mastery vs. time spent teaching Mastery by Fall K Mean Days/Month spent teaching Basic Counting & Shapes 95%12.70 Patterns & Measurement 62%7.68 Place value & Currency 25%8.61 Addition & Subtraction 7%4.38 11,517 students2,176 teachers

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How is growth in kindergarteners’ math affected by basic and advanced instruction?

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Instruction time and math achievement Source: Claessens and Engel (under review) Basic math instruction time Advanced math instruction time

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Instruction time and math achievement Source: Claessens and Engel (under review) Basic math instruction time Advanced math instruction time

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How important are school-entry math skills for school achievement? How important are K-5 math skills for completed schooling? How important are adolescent math skills for labor market success?

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Effects of K-5 skills and behaviors on completed schooling

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How important are school-entry math skills for school achievement? How important are K-5 math skills for completed schooling? How important are adolescent math skills for labor market success?

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Effects of adolescent skills and behaviors on earnings

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Why math? (preliminary) Motivational story: Math feedback is very concrete Kids who don’t master math don’t think they are good at math or good at school

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Why math (con’t)? Structural story: teachers and schools provide extra opportunities for early math achievers? moderate math skills keeps kids out of special education?

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Why math (con’t)? Cognitive skill story: math may structure thinking in ways that help students learn both higher- level math and other skills Building Blocks impacts on four oral language subtests: ability to recall key words, use of complex utterances, willingness to reproduce narratives independently, and inferential reasoning

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Summary Early math is surprisingly important Kindergarten teachers spend much less time on math than reading Early math instruction is geared toward skills kids already know Math is also highly predictive of completed schooling and earnings

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Greg J. Duncan gduncan@uci.edu School of Education University of California, Irvine

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