Economist James Heckman has spent decades studying and documenting the lasting benefits of high-quality education for children in their earliest years. He is a strong advocate for investment in programs that foster early cognitive and social development as a means for reducing inequity and increasing productivity across the country. The link between the increase of high-quality education in early childhood and the reduction of inequality seems so clear that he calls it the Heckman Equation.

Just a few days ago, the prestigious journal Science published his research team’s latest findings. The work follows up on the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC), which was started over 40 years ago to explore the impact of high-quality early care and education. From infancy to age five, participants received high-quality, full-day care and education, including topics on health and nutrition. The study followed up at five later points in time spanning older childhood and early adulthood.

The results show significant positive differences in health-related behaviors and outcomes for those who attended the ABC program three decades later, as compared to age-mates also tracked by the study but who did not receive such education.

Many of us have few, if any, specific memories of our own formative years — the period of life during which the intervention took place. Yet, experiences between infancy and age five stuck with the children and continued to shape their health-related decisions as they entered kindergarten, grade-school, and adulthood, and beyond, resulting in lower risks for common diseases and therefore lower health-care needs. 

That’s the power of getting off to the right start!

The NGPM team also feels strongly about investing in high-quality early education for every child, and we’re happy to have the opportunity to research how to best do this in our technology-infused world!

Next Generation Preschool Math will provide an example of what research and public media are doing for early learning through digital media at the New America Foundation’s event “Beyond Screen Time: Early Learning and Digital Media.”

The event itself is an “afternoon of moderated discussion, innovative exhibits and networking that explore a world beyond ‘screen time,’ recognizing technology as more than an electronic babysitter and pushing for high standards in how it is used.”

Check out the Beyond Screen Time video!

When life gives you lemons…there’s bound to be some sort of opportunity for greater learning and meaning attached.

In the case of NGPM’s Lemonade Stand, preschoolers learn principles of equipartitioning while divvying up ice cubes into cups, which they then fill with lemonade to serve to their friends.

This game encourages kinesthetic learning, and has children tilting and moving the iPads as they learn valuable lessons on math and sharing.

Note: We are currently in the Beta stages of building, but expect the games to be made available to the world soon!

The NGPM Breakfast Time app has children eating math skills right up!

The breakfast-themed game makes equipartitioning, or equal sharing, palatable for preschoolers. With a pinch of math, a sprinkling of fun, and an iPad-sized plate of whole-grain waffles, NGPM’s Breakfast Time creates a recipe for learning. 

Note: We are currently in the Beta stages of building, but expect the games to be made available to the world soon!

Equipartioning is a walk in the park with NGPM! Children have the option of playing in a variety of scenes throughout the game, each scene reinforcing the same math skill. Feed the birds, hula hoop, share apples, and play with clouds in Park Play!

Note: We are currently in the Beta stages of building, but expect the games to be made available to the world soon!

In Next Gen Preschool Math, the Birthday Café is serving up orders of subitizing, fresh off of the conveyor belt.

See how seating and serving our cartoon friends allows children to identify and recognize how many objects are in a group without having to count. (That’s subitizing!)

Note: We are currently in the Beta stages of building, but expect the games to be made available to the world soon!

NGP_kidtesting_tip02Play Testing Tip #2: Come with a protocol.

Arriving at your testing session with a plan for what you want your testers to take for a spin and what questions you want to ask will help you make sure you get the most of each session. Start with what’s most important to you (is the child able to navigate the game? Does he or she learn what I want them to learn?) and then follow it up with some nice-to-knows (can the child beat the highest level? Does he or she like the background music?). That way, if your session is cut short, you’ll still walk away with the information you and your team need to move forward with your game.

And be sure to watch and listen for those unexpected moments of insight! If you notice something interesting happening, going off-script is A-OK!

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