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Funded Grants

Kennedy Institute

Funded Grants

The goal of the research—and research and development—work we conduct at the James C. Kennedy Institute for Educational Success is to support the creation and implementation of well-funded, high-quality schools from early childhood through college. This research and development has been funded by:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF),
  • U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Research (IES),
  • Los Alamos National Labs Foundation (LNAL),
  • Gates Foundation,
  • Heising-Simons Foundation, and
  • National Governors’ Association.

Our current projects are described below:


Children's Measurement Project—Learning Trajectories to Support the Growth of Measurement Knowledge: Pre-K through Middle School
This project is studying the learning and teaching of measurement in early and elementary education. Conducted in collaboration with Jeffrey Barrett form Illinois State University, we are producing research-based developmental progressions in measurement across a seven-year span. These developmental progressions will build on and elaborate existing research-based learning trajectories (Sarama & Clements, 2009).This project will test the hypothesis that current learning trajectories for geometric measurement provide specific, generalizable resources and tools to improve instruction, assessment, and curriculum development. In subjecting these LTs to rigorous evaluation, and refining them as necessary, we will produce a more complete research basis for them as well as for the measurement and fraction modeling called for by the Common Core State Standards. We actually wrote the learning trajectory for measurement for the Common Core State Standards (and the standards themselves were based on this learning trajectory), and we wish to take it to the next level.
Connect4Learning (C4L)—Early Childhood Education in the Context of Mathematics, Science, and Literacy

We have been funded by the NSF to combine our work on the Building Blocks math curriculum with that of colleagues in other fields. The Connect4Learning interdisciplinary curriculum will connect four basic domains of learning. In addition to mathematics, the grant includes experts in science (Kimberly Brenneman, Rutgers University), literacy/language (Nell Duke, Michigan State University) and social-emotional development (M. L. Hemmeter, Vanderbilt University). Early childhood is full of debates about subject matter, with arguments arising about new emphases on mathematics taking too much time away from literacy. Science is rarely mentioned. Further, there is little research on whether an emphasis in one area necessarily means less emphasis in others, or whether they can be combined each to the benefit of others. The researchers believe the latter, and believe Connect4Learning curriculum will encourage all children to develop their full potential in all four areas-a potential that is greater than often realized.

The CREMAT Project—Using Rule Space and Poset-based Adaptive Testing Methodologies to Identify Ability Patterns in Early Mathematics and Create a Comprehensive Mathematics Ability Test

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the CREMAT Project is a $2.5 million grant that will fund efforts by Sarama and Clements, along with colleagues (and mother-and-son team) Curtis Tatsuoka and Kikumi Tatsuoka, to create and test a new early mathematics assessment. This assessment will use innovative statistical and computer technology to give teachers more useful and detailed information about children's knowledge of mathematics in less time than existing assessments. Fast but fully informative assessments help teachers really know their students, and support their use of the powerful teaching strategy of 'formative assessment' or individualizing learning.


Developing Teaching Expertise @ Mathematics (Dev-TE@M) is a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded, materials development project at the University of Michigan School of Education with whom we are partnering in this project. The purpose of this project is to build practice-focused professional development modules for practicing elementary mathematics teachers.

The overarching goal of the Dev-TE@M project is to improve student learning in mathematics by improving the knowledge and skills of elementary mathematics teachers. We aim to do this by creating a system of high-quality professional development modules that address two fundamental challenges:

1. The need for teachers to develop core elements of professional knowledge and practice in ways that are usable in their work; and

2. The need for a system that can support such professional learning at scale –– by many teachers, across contexts.

This system includes a series of modules focused on helping classroom teachers improve their teaching of elementary mathematics as well as a series focused on the development of mathematics leaders to work with classroom teachers on their practice.

Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2)

Clements and Sarama have been funded by the Gates Foundation to extend the capabilities of the BBLT web application (see above) as well. Along with DU colleagues Mario Lopez and Alvaro Arias, they will build a new version will be called the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2tool. In addition to all that BBLT provide, LT2  will interact more with caregivers and children. For example  it will produce (formative) assessment as to its effectiveness. The new strategies will include the following.
1. New interfaces and tools will encourage teachers and other caregivers, and parents, to use LT2  consistently and to learn alongside their children.
2. Embedded instructional videos and especially software activities for children will not only teach, but analyze children’s progress, individualize subsequent assignments of software activities, and communicate with caregivers.
3. Individualized, just-in-time messages will be sent to caregivers and parents about children's progress and how to promote the next level of thinking.

Los Alamos National Labs Foundation (LNAL)

Dr. Kitchen has been conducting workshops in mathematics for elementary, middle, and high school teachers from Northern New Mexico for 10 years. The focus of the workshops is on supporting participating teachers to develop a deep understanding of the mathematics that they teach. Instruction modeled aligns with research based best practices.

Preschool-Elementary-Coherence Project (COHERE)

DU’s Marsico and Kennedy Institutes are members of a Heising-Simons Foundation-funded group, the Development and Research in Early Mathematics Education (DREME) Network. The goal of DREME is to advance the field of early mathematics research in the U.S., significantly improving how early math is taught and learned. We wish to improve children’s early math competence and in turn their overall education success. The DREME Network will focus on mathematics from birth through age eight years, with an emphasis on the preschool level. The Preschool-Elementary Coherence (COHERE) project will investigate the relationship between school district and school efforts to create policy alignment and curricular coherence on coherence of learning opportunities and student experiences.

Math and Executive Function Project (EF)

Another DREME Network project will develop and evaluate enhanced mathematics activities designed to contribute to the joint development of mathematical and executive functions in early childhood. The knowledge gained from this work will be useful in guiding teachers’ and parents’ interactions with children. Thus, with Heising-Simons Foundation funding, Network members and selected colleagues will collaborate to conduct research and development projects that are innovative and rigorous, basic and applied, and that address high-priority early mathematics topics that will inform and motivate other researchers, educators, policymakers and the public.

Scalable Professional Development in Early Mathematics: The Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories Tool

Recent work has clearly documented the importance of early mathematics, the right of all young children to a high-quality mathematics education, and the need for dramatic, wide-ranging actions to support the teachers of young children in providing such education. If high-quality mathematics education does not start in preschool and continue through the early years, children can be trapped in a trajectory of failure. To help meet that need, the Heising-Simons Foundation has funded Kennedy Endowed Chairs Julie Sarama and Douglas Clements to substantially upgrade the technology and impact of a research-based teacher preparation and professional development tool for educators who teach young children mathematics. In the course of decades of research-and-development work funded by the NSF and IES, Sarama and Clements developed a power tool for professional development of teachers of early mathematics. This software tool, Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT) presents early childhood mathematics learning trajectories, connecting the three critical components of early childhood mathematics: the mathematical content, how children think about and learn that content, and teaching strategies. BBLT provides scalable access to research-based learning trajectories via descriptions, videos, commentaries, and interactive experiences. This BBLT web application has contributed to successful city-wide scale up efforts. The Heising-Simons Foundation has funded them to upgrade this tool for newer platforms and enhance its capabilities so that it will be available throughout the U.S. on multiple common platforms (tablets, phones, computers) reaching far more diverse audiences.

The TRIAD Project

A large project that is just being completed is "Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies," the third of a sequence of rigorous evaluations of a model of scaling up successful interventions, in this specific case, to increase math achievement in young children, especially those at risk, by means of a high-quality implementation of the "Building Blocks" math curriculum, with all aspects of the curriculum–content, pedagogy, technology, and assessments–based on a common core of learning trajectories. The reason this is important is that although the successes of some research-based educational practices have been documented, so too has the inability U.S. schools to successful adopt and scale up these practices. A particularly challenging educational and theoretical issue is scaling up educational programs across the large number of diverse populations and contexts in the early childhood system in the U.S., while avoiding the dilution and pollution that usually plagues such efforts to achieve broad success. With previous funding, Sarama Clements created a research-based model to meet this challenge in the area of mathematics, with the intent to generalize the model to other subject matter areas and other age groups. The field also needs transferable, practical examples of scale up; empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these examples; and focused research on critical variables–all leading to refined, generalizable theories and models of scale up.

Results of the present study indicated high levels of fidelity of implementation resulting in consistently higher scores in the intervention classes on the observation instrument and statistically significant and substantially greater gains in children's mathematics, again with substantial effect sizes in preschool and continuing into kindergarten and 1st grade, significantly more so in the "Follow Through" condition in which Kindergarten and 1st grade teachers also received professional development.