Disadvantaged children are particularly at risk for entering kindergarten behind their more advantaged peers, setting up an achievement gap that continues through later school and into adulthood. Early math skills are the strongest predictor of both later math and reading skills. However, many parents spend little time promoting their children's math skills at home. Interventions to support parent's promotion of their children's math skills in the home environment may help build math and reading skills and narrow this gap. Unfortunately, few home-based interventions for low-income parents emphasize children's early math learning and even fewer have been rigorously evaluated.
MPACT, Math for Parents and Children Together, is a program that teaches parents what effective math instruction for young children looks like, shows them how to integrate math learning into everyday routines, and encourages parents to spend time in these activities. Building on the principles of the successful Parents and Children Together (PACT) project, which increased the time low-income parents spent reading to their children, MPACT uses insights from behavioral science to promote parents' engagement in building children's developmentally-relevant math skills.
Chicago-area parents with children ages 3-4 who are currently enrolled in subsidized preschool programs will be randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups or a control group. The first treatment group will be lent a digital tablet preloaded with developmentally appropriate, math-focused applications. The second group will receive an activity booklet with developmentally appropriate, math-focused activities for parents to do with their child. The third group will receive the same intervention as group two and in addition will receive behaviorally informed text messages aimed at overcoming present bias. The fourth group will receive the same intervention as group two and in addition will receive text messages with a growth-mindset approach. The control group will receive no math tools or behaviorally informed intervention.
The goal of MPACT is to test how each of these different interventions improves parents' confidence in building their children's math skills, decreases parents' math anxiety, and increases children's relevant math skills, such as: numeracy, number recognition and relationship, and counting.