Early Mathematics Performance Diagnostic

Posted on April 29, 2020

A child on the floor aligns blocks

Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students are unique learners who access the world differently than hearing children, many utilizing a visual language, and therefore may develop, order and organize concepts differently than hearing children. Yet, they are often taught as if they are hearing children who simply cannot hear. The result is gaps in foundational mathematics concepts as early as preschool, with many graduating high school at only a 5th or 6th grade level in mathematics. The Early Mathematics Performance Diagnostic (EMPD), created by Dr. Claudia Pagliaro and Dr. Karen Kritzer, addresses these gaps.

The EMPD is a diagnostic assessment that addresses five domains of early mathematics competence (i.e., number, geometry/spatial sense; measurement; problem solving, and patterns, logic and algebra) using performance-based tasks that are engaging, motivating and meaningful for young (ages 3-5 years) DHH children. The tool is designed for teachers to better assess children’s levels of development in mathematics and guide them in planning and instruction.

What is the project’s goal?

The project’s goal is to make mathematics education and assessment more inclusive for deaf and hard of hearing children. This approach embraces their differences and sets a positive foundation for their overall learning, access and career development.

What is the innovation?

Impact Through Innovation has made possible the development and distribution of a kit (the Early Mathematics Performance Diagnostic) that allows teachers to assess early mathematics learning in deaf and hard of hearing children using “kid-friendly” manipulatives (e.g., toys, cookies, pictures), play and movement, making them much more appealing to pre-schoolers. Children are more motivated to use math when it helps them solve a problem or reach a goal that is interesting and meaningful to them. Also, unlike other pre-school mathematics assessments, the EMPD measures success across a spectrum of task completion, from “completed independently” to “needs guidance” to “needs modeling” to “cannot complete at all,” making it more conducive to classroom use. When gaps are identified, teachers and parents can then guide children through a developmental process.

What has been the impact?

Distribution of the free EMPD prototype kits is allowing for data collection on the efficacy and usefulness of the kit (what worked/didn’t work, what needs to be modified). Ultimately, this will result in a refined product that can be distributed more widely and enhance mathematics education for deaf and hard of hearing children.

Teachers of hearing children have also expressed interest in the kit and may have an opportunity to access it in a future release. Interest in the EMPD extends internationally to teachers in the U.K. and in the Netherlands. Drs. Pagliaro and Kritzer are receiving important feedback on cultural differences in relation to test items (ex. the EMPD references baseball, which is distinctly American).