The Research

Every Child's Path is the result of a five-year research project that started by identifying common difficulties children were experiencing in mathematics and literacy in the early years. Once identified, I found ways to help children interpret and describe spatial and directional information efficiently and quickly, resulting in improvements in both mathematics and literacy.

Initially I used Marie Clay's Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, 1993, that identified useful and problematic strategies children used in literacy, as a model for a similar survey in mathematics. When kindergarten and grade one children completed both surveys, the results indicated that children experienced many similar problematic strategies in both areas.

Doug Clements' work [1999] gave a possible explanation as to why these children have about the same degree of difficulty in both subject areas. He found that children best learn to see things in a box framework before a row and circle. Adapting Clements' ideas on Subitizing, [instantly seeing how many] I tested kindergarten and grade one children on how accurately they remembered briefly seeing the position of four spots placed in different locations inside a box. As the children tried to match the positions of each spot, by placing four pennies in a box, I noted their speed and the direction of placement, left to right or right to left, top to bottom or bottom to top. If children placed pennies incorrectly, I drew their arrangement for future analysis. Three of the nine boxes are shown below.

Those who had the most difficulty learning to read and write were generally the ones who were least accurate in remembering where they had seen the spots. However, no more than two children in each class could accurately reproduce where they saw four spots in all nine boxes, the first time.

This appeared to indicate that most children had some degree of difficulty with processing spatial and directional information, and could benefit from a program that teaches specific skills on how to interpret, remember and describe where they see things presented in a box shape.

To accomplish this, I used a large mat for the box shape, and taught specific names for each corner and edge of that mat. We discussed how knowing names of parts of the mat could become a frame of reference, or anchor, for whatever was seen within that box. After intervention, further testing showed improvement in how almost all children remembered seeing the spots in the boxes.

 

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