Skip directly to content

Minimize RSR Award Detail

Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Nicole R Scalise
  • Barbara W Sarnecka
Award Date:08/20/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 138,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 138,000
  • FY 2019=$138,000
Start Date:09/01/2019
End Date:08/31/2021
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.075
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Promoting Early Mathematics Interest Through Playful Learning Experiences
Federal Award ID Number:1911869
Program:SPRF-Broadening Participation
Program Officer:
  • Josie S. Welkom
  • (703) 292-7376

Awardee Location

City:College Park
Awardee Cong. District:05

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of California, Irvine
Cong. District:45

Abstract at Time of Award

This award was provided as part of NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (SPRF) program. The goal of the SPRF program is to prepare promising, early career doctoral-level scientists for scientific careers in academia, industry or private sector, and government. SPRF awards involve two years of training under the sponsorship of established scientists and encourage Postdoctoral Fellows to perform independent research. NSF seeks to promote the participation of scientists from all segments of the scientific community, including those from underrepresented groups, in its research programs and activities; the postdoctoral period is considered to be an important level of professional development in attaining this goal. Each Postdoctoral Fellow must address important scientific questions that advance their respective disciplinary fields. Under the sponsorship of Dr. Barbara Sarnecka at the University of California, Irvine, this postdoctoral fellowship award supports an early career scientist investigating young children's interest in mathematics. Many students from minority groups and low-income households do not pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) coursework and careers. One way to help underrepresented students persist in STEM fields is to boost their interest in STEM fields. Students' interest in math can be measured as early as preschool and relates to their later interest and achievement. Although the vast majority of young children ultimately learn the basics of counting and numbers, many children never develop interest in and other positive beliefs about math. However, little is known about how to support children's interest in math. This project will provide important insights to the fields of mathematical cognition and STEM motivation by testing whether playing math-related card games can help to boost low-income preschoolers' interest in math. Although much attention has been paid to supporting the early mathematical skills of children from underrepresented groups, less research has targeted children's early math interest. This study addresses three aims: 1) whether experience with a playful math activity can improve children's math interest; 2) whether experience with a playful math activity can improve children's math skills relative to a non-playful math activity; and 3) whether children's initial math interest moderates their learning from math activities. Head Start preschool children will be randomly assigned to either play a mathematical card game or complete a parallel mathematical worksheet across several sessions. Children's math interest and skills will be assessed before and after the intervention. Theories of interest development suggest that early engaging experiences lay the foundation for more stable interest in subject areas, and accordingly, this study will provide children with repeated engaging experiences to spark their situational interest. As the fields of developmental and educational psychology move towards the study of individual differences and subgroup analyses, this study will also help researchers better understand the effects of playful learning for students with varying levels of math interest. Based on previous research, the playful learning experience is expected to significantly improve children's numerical skills and promote children's situational math interest, fostering positive associations with math that could develop over time into a more sustained individual interest. The playful numerical card game is an efficient, low-cost tool that can be used to improve early math outcomes for young children, and the results of the study will be disseminated broadly to researchers, educators, and parents. Finally, this study focuses on children from groups that are underrepresented in STEM: children from low-SES households, racial/ethnic minorities, who may be particularly at risk for lower math achievement and motivation. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

For specific questions or comments about this information including the NSF Project Outcomes Report, contact us.