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“Reframing Early Math Learning” — Sharing New FrameWorks Institute Report

With support from the Heising-Simons Foundation, FrameWorks Institute has developed a new report, “Reframing Early Math Learning,” offers effective strategies for shifting public understanding about early math.

A growing body of research reveals that early mathematical skills—and growth in these skills over the early elementary years—correlate more strongly with academic skills in later elementary school than any other early indicator. However, policymakers, families, and the general public often encounter conceptual and behavioral barriers that prevent them from embracing, and investing time and resources in, early math.

Based on a set of empirical studies that included more than 7,500 Americans, “Reframing Early Math Learning” outlines why early math can be hard for people to grasp, and offers ways to shape advocates’ communications and outreach to make the issue more accessible and compelling.

The resulting recommended framing strategies are grouped into three goals that can shift the story we tell about early math learning:

  • Strategically situate early math’s role in overall learning and society;
  • Deepen the public’s understanding of what early math learning is and how it happens; and,
  • Put equity on the public’s radar by connecting early math learning to broader social disparities.
FrameWorks Institute’s Recommended Framing Strategies

Based on their research, FrameWorks Institute recommends these framing strategies to help shift the story we tell about early math learning:

  1. Use an early childhood development frame to showcase the many effects of early math.
  2. Be explicit that “early” means “from birth.”
  3. Amplify concern about early math by emphasizing the existence of widespread bipartisan support for early math learning opportunities.
  4. Talk about Math as a Language to boost understanding of how math learning works and why it’s important for children to learn math early.
  5. Use the Math Lens metaphor to broaden the parameters of early math learning and to increase understanding of how to help young children learn math.
  6. Appeal to place-based arguments about fairness to build support for equitable solutions.
  7. Put racial disparities in early math learning into historical context to mobilize people of color.
  8. Foreground socioeconomic disparities to build support for collective action on early math.
  9. Mobilize lower-income people by explaining opportunity as a structural issue.

“Changing the way the public thinks about early math will require changing the ways advocates talk about early math,” FrameWorks Institute explains. “The research presented here first summarizes FrameWorks’ findings about the patterns evident in everyday Americans’ views on early math learning and then provides recommendations for responding to the communications challenges resulting from those widely held perceptions and beliefs. The result is a set of experimentally tested framing strategies for advancing the conversation on early math learning in more productive directions.”

We invite you to read the full report here.