Berkeleyan Masthead HomeSearchArchive

This Week's Stories

Remembering Bay Area’s Bridge-Building Bonanza

New State Law Requires Union Fee Payment

Asian Scholar Reflects On Fifty Years at Berkeley

Taking a Global Look at Math Development

An Ancient Fish that Went Its Own Way

School of Education Lends Expertise to Set up Seattle Career Academies

Building a Bridge Over America’s Racial Divide

‘Rice Women’ Dance and Music Piece Faces East

Cyber Exhibit Explores Perceptions of Time and Identity

Forum to Examine Proposed Community Service Requirements

Publications: Management Practices in Dietetics

Minor Planet Named After Major Campus Star

Open Enrollment for Benefits

Staff Air Concerns Over Salaries, Bonuses and Aging Infrastructure in Chat with Chancellor

Local Governments Lag in Preparing for “The Big One” Along Hayward Fault

Regular Features




Campus Calendar


News Briefs


Taking a Global Look at Math Development

Research to Analyze Early Math Learning in Cultures of U.S., Japan and China

By Kathleen Maclay, Public Affairs
Posted November 3, 1999

Just how culture helps development of math concepts in young American, Japanese and Chinese children will be explored in a $1.5 million study led by campus researchers.

Under close examination will be the roles of children's home and classroom environments, child-rearing and child-care customs, as well as knowledge and belief systems of parents, teachers and other caregivers.

The three-year, cross-national project's ultimate aim is to improve teaching and learning in preschool and elementary school years.

"We hope this research will show us when and how we can most effectively support the development of young children's mathematical knowledge and abilities, so when they enter elementary school they'll be ready for a standards-based math curriculum," said Prentice Starkey, one of the researchers and an associate professor with the Graduate School of Education.

About 200 children ages 3 through 6 will be studied from each of the three subject countries. Half will come from low socioeconomic families, the rest from middle-income backgrounds.

"We'll be investigating how these cultures support children's early mathematical development in multiple learning environments -- home, child care, preschool and kindergarten," said Starkey.

Joining Starkey in the study is Alice Klein of the Institute of Human Development, where Starkey is on the staff. Both Starkey and Klein consulted with the California Department of Education on math education guidelines for pre-kindergarten education.

Also working on the study will be Mark Wilson, a professor in the Graduate School of Education, who researches student measurement and assessment.

The research project will be assisted by faculty from the University of Hawaii, Beijing Normal University and Keio University in Japan.

Educators already know that informal math knowledge starts developing very early in life and serves as a foundation for acquisition of formal math skills in elementary school, said Starkey.

"But research conducted in the 1990s," he said, "has revealed that children enter elementary school with surprisingly large differences in the extent of their mathematical knowledge.

"This knowledge tends to be less extensive in children from low-income families than in children from middle-income families," he said, "and it tends to be less extensive in American children in general than in Chinese and Japanese children."

Starkey and Klein worked with Chinese educators on a cross-cultural study of pre-kindergarten children's mathematical development that was reported earlier this year at the meeting of Society for Research in Child Development. A key finding was that American children in general enter kindergarten with an understanding of math about a year behind their Chinese peers.

Not enough study has been done to determine the age when achievement differences first manifest themselves, according to Klein and Starkey.

Research funding comes from the Interagency Education Research Initiative, a joint effort of the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and U.S. Education Department.



November 3 - 9, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 13)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail