Foundation grant brings blended learning to 10 L.A. preK sites

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Low-income preschoolers in Los Angeles County will have the opportunity to experience a high-tech math program created by the nonprofit MIND Research Institute, thanks to a $200,000 grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation.
The foundation’s three-year grant will provide MIND’s ST Math® early learning program for 1,400 preschoolers as well as professional development sessions by MIND Research staff for 20 preschool teachers. Using the ST Math early learning program, teachers will be able to establish a blended learning environment in their classrooms that combines group lessons and individual, self-paced work on computers.
While it’s long been accepted that the quality of early childhood education has lifelong implications, research by Dr Greg Duncan at the University of California, Irvine showed that early math skills are the number one predictor of later academic success.  In his study, he looked at reading skills, behavior, and attention, and found that early math skills far outweigh the others in predicting things like high school graduation and college matriculation.
The ST Math early learning program will be implemented at 10 Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) sites.  To maximize the impact of the grant, the preschools will be primarily those that feed to elementary schools where ST Math is already used in kindergarten and beyond.
“At LAUP, our mission is to provide an affordable and accessible quality preschool education to 4-year-olds living in LA County, because all children deserve a year of engaging, thought-provoking learning activities to ensure their kindergarten readiness,” said Celia C. Ayala, CEO of LAUP.  “Young children are naturally curious and drawn to exploration, scientific discovery and patterns, and we are excited for this grant opportunity from the MIND Research Institute and the Keck Foundation to help more children become better prepared for their future academic success.”
Independent research in Los Angeles Unified School District has proven that ST Math markedly improves elementary student math performance. Earlier this year, West Ed published a report showing that second through fifth grade children using ST Math in LAUSD performed significantly better on standardized tests than their peers. 
“We’re grateful to the Keck Foundation for sharing our vision of ensuring all children have the mathematical skills necessary to not just succeed in school but to become problem solvers and innovative thinkers,” said Matthew Peterson, Ph.D., cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of MIND Research Institute. “I’m particularly excited about the opportunities of compounding the learning effects by focusing on preschool age children.”
The pre-k ST Math program helps develop foundations in math, as defined by the California Department of Education, including counting, identifying shapes, and understanding addition and subtraction concepts. The games use visual, interactive animation of objects that improve spatial-temporal reasoning. Because they do not rely on language like traditional math programs, they are equally accessible to English language learners and English speakers. Children reason their way through increasing levels of difficulty in the games while receiving immediate, instructive feedback. Teachers can access real-time student learning data to identify which students need extra help. The program also includes teacher-guided lessons that integrate ST Math concepts, rounding out the blended learning model.

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