Preschool Counts is a new service-learning program with a dual purpose: to help preschoolers master key math concepts in preparation for success at elementary school; and to give Stanford students the experience of fulfilling a real need in the community by providing them opportunities, tools, and support. The program is based on a robust body of research demonstrating that early numeracy skills predict later success in all academic areas, including literacy.
This past spring 14 tutors and two student leaders participated, including five students who were also part of the inaugural class of 16 in the winter quarter. In partnership with Ravenswood Child Development Center in East Palo Alto, the Stanford students tutor small groups of children twice weekly, using a variety of engaging math games.
In addition to the tutoring sessions, students are required to enroll in EDUC 171: Early Childhood Education Practicum, where they learn about children’s social and emotional development as well as practical math teaching and classroom management skills.
“Having a mandatory course associated with the program helps students to take service seriously,” said Program Director Elizabeth Figueredo.
Preschool Counts complements the spectrum of PreK-12 mentoring and tutoring programs offered to Stanford students and community youth in the Haas Center’s Education Partnerships programming. The program is supported by the Dhanam Foundation, which promotes innovation in PreK-12 education.
The curricula for both the Stanford students and the preschool children are developed by Figueredo with faculty advisor Deborah Stipek, the dean of education at Stanford, whose research involves early childhood math education. Once Preschool Counts has been running for a while, Stipek will begin to measure its success and establish it as a model for integrating research, classroom learning and service.
“Our goal is to develop a program that we know works for children and that we can share with other universities,” said Stipek. “We can save people interested in implementing a program like this at other campuses the time it takes to fine-tune the program. That’s what I think Stanford does so well – it shares effective innovations.”