Children enrolled in school at a tender age while exhibiting diverse mathematical skills, knowledge and opportunities to excel in mathematics. Research indicates that students exposed to early mathematics in their earliest years are far more likely to experience academic success. According to Clements D. H, et al. (2011), interventions on the current teaching system enhance mathematical knowledge to primary school children, which sticks with them to later years. Academic gaps among children from low SES backgrounds tend to exhibit significantly lower levels of mathematical understanding. Given that children enter school carrying different experiences in mathematics and children who have low mathematics understanding at school entry continue to perform below peers throughout school, schools choose to intervene early in mathematics. To have the most significant impact on mathematic achievement for students who require supplement instruction or intervention, educators must understand features of effective interventions across each of the early numeracy domains (Clement, 2011). The effectiveness of early numeracy interventions may differ according to variables such as student’s age or specific numeracy content. The purpose of this proposed action research study is to focus on the following question: What is the effectiveness of early numeracy interventions in primary grades?

Review of the Literature

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Pre-school Mathematical Development

The development of knowledge in the mathematical domain commences early in the children’s life, way before they enter formal education. Early numeracy skills are achieved at this point. According to Malofeeva et al. (2004), the skills require understanding numbers and their relations with other numbers. Researchers argue that children pose a small degree of numerical understanding in their infant years, capable of remembering and discriminating between small sets of items. The capability brings the realization that, indeed, there exists some capability of understanding numbers during the pre-linguistic development stage. According to Clements & Sarama (2009), 2 to 3-year-old children may randomly chant any part of a word sequence without a particular sequence. The phenomenon expresses itself when infants gain the capability of verbally expressing their understanding of mathematical content.

The learning process continues, and by the age of 3 to 5 years, children gain the ability to accurately and instantly decipher groups of four objects (Clements & Sarama, 2009). The phenomenon is called subitizing and is an indication of advancement in the development of numeracy skills.

Continual interaction with the environment promotes informal understanding of mathematical knowledge. The informal knowledge provides the building ground for advancing formal knowledge in the next education level, making them great predictors of future mathematical knowledge. Typically, the capability of verbal counting is developed in the preschool years under the home environment. They are necessitating the need for a conducive learning environment for the development of numeracy skills. Children entering kindergarten with a deficiency in numeracy skills exhibit poor performance in mathematics throughout elementary school. This premise lays the importance of the development of preschool mathematical knowledge.

Pretesting and Progress Monitoring

A critical element of providing effective numeracy intervention in primary schools is by administering screening and benchmark testing. Research clearly states that administering pretests, such as the ENT-R evaluations, which assess math prerequisites, counting, and estimation skills by evaluating nine different mathematical components, helps immediately detect students who manifest mathematical difficulties. These pretests are essential and greatly benefit the execution of numeracy intervention. The components include comparison components such as; seriation, numeral usage, classification, resultative counting, estimation, correspondence, shortened and synchronized counting, and generally understanding of numbers. (Sylke et al., 2012). By implementing such pretests, educators are given an overview of each child’s results, which ultimately helps guide their instruction in the classroom and organize their intervention program. Missing numbers, quantity discrimination, number identification have the most potential when used as measures for evaluating first-grade and kindergarten grasp of mathematics (Lembke & Foegen, 2009). Pretesting also helps determine which students fall below a norm score of 50 and captures students’ early number sense (Lembke & Foegen, 2009). Educators can then plan and organize accordingly by creating a profile for each student, having their strengths and areas of need in mind. Ongoing progress-monitoring of students’ results throughout the intervention process is equally important. It gives educators an idea of how they are progressing and tests the effects of the intervention (Bryant et al., 2011).

Professional Development

Research has been conducted exploring the effects of professional development among educators to increase numeracy achievement in primary classrooms. According to (Nelson & McMaster, 2019), educators require training and professional development to run an effective early numeracy intervention program. Ensuring that staff members who will be performing the early numeracy intervention programs are trained in using proper interventions techniques, strategies, and instructional tools, ensures the program has optimal opportunities for success. (Bryant et al., 2011) states a similar view communicating that the procedures required for the intervention were not only modelled first but also practised. This training’s purpose was to ensure that the instructors were well equipped to train teachers and observe their fidelity assessment. (Bryant et al. 2011, p.12). Instructors stated training sessions to be most effective when they took place at the beginning of every year and before each intervention unit. Teachers have gone as far as to state that the teachers opportunities of development opportunities are valued, and the ensuing training proceed throughout (Stobie et al., 2014).

Effective teaching interventions

Intervention means a deviation from existing teaching practices (Simms V et al. 2019). It is against this backdrop that the importance of teachers’ input concerning mathematical skill development is noted. The mode of teaching determines whether teachers would be successful in their mandate of passing down knowledge. Currently, numeracy skills in primary schools are lack hence the need of coming up with more effective teaching modes to replace the old ones. Interventions thus call for a change to the teaching practice through the use of effective teaching procedures. The procedures are only effective when they impact a large group of learners.

Teachers can use manipulative, which are physical objects, to assist in the course of teaching. Manipulative put numbers into perspective, facilitating easier understanding of mathematical concepts. Manipulatives also make learning fun and engaging, thus promoting learner participation in the learning activity. For instance, students trained in using a physical abacus transition seamlessly to mental calculations skills (Simms V et al. 2019). The advancement is an indication of an improved numerical capability in mathematical development.

Developing an effective feedback system between the learners and teachers is necessary to determine understanding mathematical concepts. Feedback enables the teacher to assess the effectiveness of their teaching and adjust as per the requirement of students. Moreover, the system can help identify students with difficulties, and personalized intervention systems can be made.

Learning is even more effective when technological engagement is adopted. Studies show that older primary school learners excel more in a virtual learning environment than physical ones. Web-based learning mainly provides unlimited reference opportunities to problem-solving questions that make the bulk of mathematical skills (Simms V et al. 2019). Studies reveal that peer-assisted mathematical learning was far more effective than regular teacher assistance. Students are less anxious and more interested in group discussions than in a regular class setting. The attributes set the fodder for grasping mathematical concepts. The study results reveal that indeed the delivery context of knowledge heavily influences learner participation and the inevitable understanding.

Numeracy Intervention Reviews

Unlike in other areas of mathematical development, little to no reviews of interventions concerned with the development of early numeracy skills exist. Up to now, there is little existence of meta-analysis solely evaluating mathematics intervention for primary school participants. According to Frye et al. (2013), the numeracy intervention programs include; daily integration of mathematical instructions, viewing the world mathematically, incorporation of progress monitoring tools, teaching data analysis skills and geometry, and lastly, teaching numbers operations concepts. Faithfully following the five recommendations results in improved mathematical skills, and their successful application indicates effective intervention. Further studies reveal that intervention yields more significant results when there exists; computer-assisted educational strategies, explicit instructions, strategic instructions, and use of representations. Frye et al. (2013) conclude that instructional recommendations support successful intervention. When mathematical instructors follow such recommendations, a result is an improvement in mathematical skills.

 

 

Implementation Fidelity

The fidelity concept measures how well an intervention is being effected in its replacement of old teaching practice. Under the concept, teaching sessions are observed to gauge the teacher’s application of recommended teaching techniques. Assessment of the change in teaching techniques is done using quality performance indicators such as: using teaching strategies like manipulatives, maintaining student attention and behaviour, and implementing instruction procedures (Beng H. S et al., 2019). Effective classroom practices show how well the teacher can command his students’ undivided attention. On the other hand, instruction procedures refer to how a combination of systemic, inquiry-based, and explicit instructions are used in the course of learning.

Effective conveying of instructions ensures that communication between the teacher and learners is clear. The existence of these indicators in a learning session proves that indeed interventions have been made on teaching techniques, thus showing the competency of teachers. Teacher satisfaction is also assessed to measure implementation fidelity (Baye A et al., 2017). Since teachers are the conveyors of knowledge, their endorsement of intervention policies is essential in owning up to the changes. Teachers become more dedicated in their practice if only they approve the interventions. Components of instructions as well as the lesson content should be to their satisfaction. A well-received intervention plan is easy to sell to the students, thus improving learning outcomes.

Successful Intervention Plan

Research indicates that the earlier students receive numeracy intervention, the better the chances of them experiencing success in mathematics. With this being said, several components make up the intervention plan to run well and be effective. Conclusion: there are several factors and strategies mentioned by Clement (2011) and Stobie (2004) that contribute to successful numeracy intervention among primary grades. One of the main focuses in both articles is the importance of a detailed intervention plan involving teachers, parents, and students. The plan should be collaborative and proper resources should be established and implemented to ensure academic success among students.

Evidence of EIPs effectiveness in prolonged use is plenty when; the prolonged intervention includes parents and children, intensive and multicomponent (Durlak, 1995, p. 57). Stobie (2004) indicates that the numeracy intervention programs implemented in three different schools were schools where children attending came from low-income families. The goal was to provide one-on-one intervention using a specific program tailored to that student and mental math strategies. Both articles describe that multitiered systems were implemented successfully in schools due to the organization, prioritization, and dedication to the intervention programs. Running a successful Response to Intervention Program (RTI) is hard work and dedication on all individuals involved; however, the reward, in the end, is worth it when you see children experiencing academic success.

Analysis

The research conducted for this review supports the importance of early numeracy intervention in primary grades. Clement (2011) and Stobie et al. (2004) presented specific strategies used for numeracy intervention. Clement (2011) stated that Instructors implemented the Technology-enhanced, Research-based, Instruction, Assessment, and professional Development (TRIAD) model with great success. The emphasis is put on collaboration among teachers, administrators, and families as a critical component to the academic achievement reached by students. Over two years, teachers took part in professional development, training, discussions, and role-playing, all with specific goals to enhance students’ early numeracy skills. Throughout the two-year TRIAD model, teachers became much more confident when providing numeracy interventions and strong positive effects on children’s achievement were noted (Clement 2011). Although there was achievement documented, black children exhibited much smaller advancements than their same grouped peers. (Cleme,nt, 2011) “The TRIAD interventions effectively improve the teachers expectations for black childrens grasp of mathematics. They do this by availing trajectories of learning that assist teachers to know the childrens potential and how instructors can assist them in advancing their mathematical skills. (Clement, 2011). It was unclear as to why these students achieved much lower than their peers. It would be interesting to gather information about their SES to see at what age or if they’ve ever been introduced to early numeracy skills.

Very little research and information have been conducted on exact lesson plans used for numeracy intervention. It would be beneficial to have such findings to assist educators in properly implementing numeracy interventions in the classroom. According to Bryant (2011), by the end of First Grade, 45 % of students and 22% of comparison students were no longer at risk for mathematical difficulties after receiving the numeracy intervention throughout the year. If every school were to have success as such in their schools, this would significantly reduce the number of learners at risk of failing mathematics by clearing Grade one.

Conclusions

The research shared in this review provides an overview of critical factors to consider when implementing early numeracy intervention in primary classrooms. Competency in mathematics is an excellent indicator of advanced mathematical knowledge. For students from low SES backgrounds or low resource communities, this potential may be out of reach or unattainable. Providing a structured research-based mathematics intervention program in schools has proven effective and efficient at closing achievement gaps in mathematics. To run a successful numeracy intervention program, schools need to ensure it remains a priority. School Development Plans are the long term solution of sustaining the program (Stobie, 2004, p.160). Collaboration is essential and will involve rigorous planning, organization, pretesting/monitoring, and professional development. Schools need to prioritize intervention practices by ensuring they have proper resources, staffing, evaluations, and professional development to ensure that early numeracy intervention is successful.

Discussion and Recommendations

Successful performance in mathematics at advanced levels is determined by developing early numeracy skills in primary schools. However, due to different mathematical capabilities exhibited by students, it is necessary to come up with interventions suited to the learners’ needs. The interventions are complementary to the existing practices since they bolster core instructions. Timely interventions ensure a good grasp of foundational mathematical concepts and skills are learned at an early stage of learning. Proper research is, however, lacking in the review focusing on subjects from preschool to first grade. This period in time is crucial in developing mathematical skills and knowledge since early numeracy skills are only taught then, giving students an excellent mathematical foundation with this bearing in mind the importance of addressing the gap in research that exists at that crucial time of learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Baye, A., Inns, A., Lake, C., Slaving, R. E. (2017). Effective reading programs for secondary students. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Research and Reform in Education

Beng H. S, Stephen G, Rebecca M, Nadia S (2019) Evaluation of the impact of Maths Counts delivered by teaching assistants on primary school pupils attainment in maths, Educational Research and Evaluation, 25:3-4, 203-224, DOI: 10.1080/13803611.2019.1686031

Bryant D, Roberts, G, Porterfield J, Pfannenstiel K, Vaughn S, Gersten, R. Bryant R (2011). Early numeracy intervention program for first-grade students with mathematics difficulties. Exceptional Children, 78(1), 723.

Clements D, Sarama, J. (2011). Early childhood mathematics intervention. Science, 333(6045), 968970.

Frye D, McDowell J, Carver M, Jordan C., & Baroody A, Burchinal M (2013). Teaching math to young children. Educator’s practice guide. What Works Clearinghouse. NCEE 2014-4005. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

Judge S, Watson M. (2011). Longitudinal outcomes for mathematics achievement for students with learning disabilities. The Journal of Educational Research, 104, 147157. doi:10.1080/00220671003636729

Lembke E, Foegen, A. (2009). Identifying early numeracy indicators for kindergarten and first-grade students. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 24(1), 1220.

Malofeeva E, Young, L., & Ciancio, D. Saco X, Day J (2004). Construction and evaluation of a number sense test with a head start children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 648659. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.96.4.648

Nelson G, McMaster L. (2019). The effects of early numeracy interventions for students in preschool and early elementary: a meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(6), 10011022.

Simms V, Sloan S, McKeaveney C, Gilmore, C. (2019). Interventions to improve mathematical achievement in primary school-aged children. UlsterUniversity.

Stobie I, Truswell E, Woolfson L, Connaughton N, Boyle J, (2004). Quality indicators for effective early intervention in literacy and numeracy. International Journal of Early Years Education, 12(2), 157168.

Sylke T, Johannes L. (2012). Early numeracy intervention for low-performing kindergartners. Journal of Early Intervention, 34(4), 243264. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053815113477205

 

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