Early Identification of, and Interventions for, Kindergarten Students at Risk for Mathematics Difficulties

  • Marcie PennerEmail author
  • Chad Buckland
  • Michael Moes


Children enter kindergarten with considerable differences in numeracy (Jordan et al. in Dev Psychol 45(3), 850–867, 2009). These differences, prior to formal schooling, may not initially seem important. However, kindergarten numeracy skills predict later mathematics achievement and general academic achievement (Duncan et al. in Dev Psychol 43(6), 1428–1446, 2007; Romano et al. in Dev Psychol 46(5), 995–1007, 2010). Children who enter school with poor numeracy skills do not catch up (Aunola et al. in Journal of Educational Psychol, 096(4), 699–713, 2004), likely due to the lack of early identification and intervention tools. Poor numeracy skills are a serious long-term concern; numeracy is at least as important as literacy for employment outcomes, including obtaining and retaining a job, and income level (Bynner and Parsons in Does Numeracy Matter? Evidence from the National Child Development Study on the Impact of Poor Numeracy on Adult Life. The Basic Skills Agency, London, England 1997; Parsons and Bynner in Educ Train, 39(2), 43–51, 1997; Ritchie and Bates in Psychol Sci 24(7), 1301–1308, 2013). Thus, research focused on developing tools to assess and improve children’s numeracy skills early on is critical. Using research from longitudinal studies, we identified cognitive predictors of numeracy skills. Evidence-based early screening tools, which allow teachers and researchers to predict, in kindergarten, which children will struggle to gain numeracy skills are also identified. Finally, criteria for evaluating the efficacy of early school-based interventions are provided and applied to existing early numeracy interventions for at-risk students. This interdisciplinary work, combining findings from education, cognitive science, and psychology, has direct applications for early identification, instruction, and intervention in the classroom, with the goal of improving the long-term outcomes of students.


Kindergarten Mathematics Numeracy Screener Intervention At risk Evidence-based Efficacy Quantitative Working memory Linguistic 



No conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, are declared by the authors.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKing’s University College at Western UniversityLondonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWestern UniversityLondonCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyKing’s University College at Western UniversityLondonCanada

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