As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nation’s schools to shift to remote learning, Lynch School of Education and Human Development Professor Eric Dearing and his colleagues in the Development and Research on Early Math Education Network, or DREME, looked for a way to help.

Within a few weeks, they had finished an at-home early math learning kit for families to help parents and teachers foster mathematics education in children up to age eight. Packaged in an eight-page PDF and available electronically, the kit has been distributed to schools and organizations supporting thousands of students throughout the U.S.

“Being able to help, even a little bit, during this very stressful time for students, parents, and teachers is very gratifying,” said Dearing, a member of a team of researchers supporting the DREME Network at Stanford University.

The kit was designed around the theme of “math is all around us.” It shares suggestions for learning activities that draw on the principles and examples of mathematics that can be found in everyday household objects and daily activities.

For example, some activities in the kit are based around cooking recipes, conversations about sorting laundry by color or type of clothing, or a discussion on counting while setting the table for a meal. The kit also teaches math concepts using card games developed by Dearing and Professor Emeritus Beth Casey.

With funding from the Heising-Simons Foundation, the DREME Network has been at work for approximately six years as part of what’s expected to be a more than $10 million research and curriculum development initiative focused on mathematics education for children from birth to age eight.

“We are heading into the fourth phase of our DREME work addressing the foundation’s goal of creating opportunities and resources for early math learning,” Dearing said. “We also want to increase attention, in society at large, on the importance of early math learning in both the classroom and in the home, or other environments where families and young children find themselves.”

The DREME At-Home Early Math Learning Kit has been shared with school districts across the U.S., including major cities in California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, and reached thousands of families with young children. The kit is also being shared widely by public libraries, children’s museums, news media groups, child care centers, and nonprofit organizations that support families.

Included in the kit are: tips for bringing math into storybook time; two easy recipes for cookies and personal pizzas designed to allow families to start math conversations while cooking; ideas to quickly uncover and talk about math in everyday moments, like cleaning up toys or getting ready for bed; and directions for four card games that are fun and allow children to practice skills like adding and comparing numbers. [The kit can be downloaded from the DREME website.]

Dearing said the development of the kit was supported by his team of researchers—led by BC’s DREME Project Director Sara Schnitzer—including Lynch School doctoral students Ariadne Nelson, Lindsay Clements, Julie Kim, and Catalina Rey Guerra; masters’ students Alden Burnham and Amanda Stroiman; and undergraduates Alexia Kovatsis and Hope Dragelin.

Before the pandemic, the DREME Network had already been offering math education supports to providers who work closely with families: pediatricians, librarians, social workers, and parent educators, for example.

“The pandemic and resulting school closing created a huge need among early childhood teachers for these types of resources,” Dearing said. “Districts, preschool teachers, and families themselves have been desperate to have resources that aid learning at home while also recognizing and helping with the tremendous stress that families are under.”

Ed Hayward | University Communications | June 2020