Early numeracy skills are important for later mathematical learning. Already in kindergarten and the early school years there are large individual differences in children’s early numeracy skills. Early identification and support are argued to potentially decrease later mathematical learning difficulties. However, this puts a high demand on the tools for identifying and supporting children at risk for mathematical learning difficulties. This thesis, therefore, aims to contribute to the research on early numeracy skills development by focusing on identifying and supporting children at risk for mathematical learning difficulties in kindergarten and during the early school years. This aim has been achieved by investigating how early numeracy skills develop and are interrelated, examining the psychometric criteria of an early numeracy test, and investigate the effects of a computer-assisted intervention program on children’s early numeracy skills. This thesis is based on three substudies (Studies I, II and III). Study I investigated how early numeracy skills (symbolic and non-symbolic number knowledge, understanding mathematical relations, counting skills and basic skills in arithmetic) develop and are interrelated, in order to reach an understanding of which early numeracy skills at the beginning of the school year, predicted later early numeracy performance. Study II focused on assessment for identifying children at risk for mathematical learning difficulties by examining the psychometric criteria of the Early Numeracy test. The reliability (internal consistency) and validity (structural validity, known group validity, and cross-cultural validity) evidence were investigated. Study III examined the effects of supporting children at risk for mathematical learning difficulties using the evidence-based Number Race computer game in a computer-assisted intervention in an authentic school setting. All three substudies were based on data collected in kindergarten (n = 361), first grade (n = 321) and second grade (n = 457) during one school year. The results from Study I indicated that counting skills in the beginning of first grade was an important predictor of later early numeracy skills while basic arithmetic skills emerged as a key predictor of later early numeracy skills in both first and second grades. Latent profile analysis identified three early numeracy profiles that differed in the early numeracy skills in the beginning of the school year: well-performing, average-performing, and at risk for mathematical learning. Low-performing children showed deficits in all early numeracy subskills and were unable to close the gap to their average- or well-performing peers during the school year. Study II supported the reliability and validity evidence of the Early Numeracy test, indicating that the test can fulfil its purpose to identify children at risk for mathematical learning difficulties in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. This test can also specifically describe children’s performances, as it defines and interprets the various early numeracy subskills as different factors. Study III revealed no statistically significant effect of the Number Race-intervention on the low-performing children’s early numeracy skills. At none of the three assessment time points did the low-performing groups differ significantly from the low-performing comparison group, which only received ordinary classroom instruction in mathematics during the intervention period. These findings highlighted the importance of developing targeted interventions, which will be easy to implement in the general classroom to enhance children’s early numeracy skills. Combining the findings of the three substudies ca provide additional empirical evidence for the model of core early numeracy skills: symbolic and non-symbolic number knowledge, understanding mathematical relations, counting skills and basic skills in arithmetic (Aunio & Räsänen, 2016). This model of core early numeracy skills can provide a working model for educational practice, in which assessment and instruction are brought closer together to improve educational practise and provide all children with foundational early numeracy skills.
|Myöntöpäivämäärä||7 toukokuuta 2021|
|Tila||Julkaistu - 7 toukokuuta 2021|
|OKM-julkaisutyyppi||G5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)|