CME Group Awards Math Learning Grant

July 7, 2014

Math at Home Site.jpg

Research has long confirmed algebra is a significant gatekeeper for African American and Latino learners from access to high level mathematics study and eventual career access.  With a nationwide emphasis on increasing the number of African American and Latino students pursuing STEM careers, the College of Education is taking a unique approach to preparing the youngest of learners with early learning math skills.

The CME Group Foundation awarded the College’s Kathleen Sheridan, PhD, professor of educational psychology; Catherine Main, coordinator of the College’s early childhood education program; and Melissa Kelly, visiting clinical lecturer of educational psychology a grant of $200,000 over two years to support the expansion, research on usage and further development of an online early math professional development site for home child care providers.

“These providers are often times not very reachable, kind of hidden,” Sheridan said. “We know they don’t often have access to professional development, and people often think you can’t do math with very young children or are not comfortable with their own math ability.”

The project’s website,, provides more than 100 lessons aligned to national math standard, equipped with scripts and resources to actually put the lesson into practice.  Other resources for home child care providers include links to web resources, school principal versions of lessons, lessons to be distributed to parents, a series of videos that explain basic math concepts and big ideas to home care providers and a section on setting up a physical environment for fostering math literacy.  The site includes a specific focus on working with infants and recommendations for early learning math apps.

In the next two years, Sheridan says the team plans to package lessons and videos into professional development modules to aid home care providers in meeting the State of Illinois’ new family care credential, which requires all family care providers to earn licensure.

“Sometimes family care providers are not licensed and just working in homes, and they may not want to be found,” Sheridan said. “Our motive is to give free resources to whoever is doing this, but it can be a hard network to break in to.”

Math at Home materials will be launched in Spanish for the first time through the new grant funding.  Specifically, the letters to parents home care providers can generate will be translated into Spanish to give these parents a greater grasp on the math concepts their children are engaging with, with a goal of continuing and reinforcing home child care provider math lessons in the home.  This early foundation for non-English speaking early learners can be crucial down the road, as research indicates English as a second language students are often impacted by struggles to master academic language in subjects such as math and science.

Finally, the site’s blog, already featuring 500-plus posts, will continue on a biweekly basis.  The blog features posts on using math manipulatives in the home, exploring connections between teaching and learning, drawing attention to useful websites, developing thematic lessons and supporting families in their own exploration of early childhood math.