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Funded Grants

Kennedy Institute

Funded Grants

While improving the quality of early learning experiences is a worthy investment in the future, real world practices have only recently begun to catch up with this idea. MIELL works to increase the connection between research and practice through:

  • our partnership with Colorado's early childhood system-building efforts.
  • our original research on innovative classroom- and home-based interventions
  • our work integrating and translating the best research in the early childhood field around the country and the world

Broadly speaking, MIELL's research agenda is focused on the contribution that adults make in creating stimulating and nurturing environments for young children, thereby establishing a foundation for lifelong learning. Our 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.


The purpose of Development and Research in Early Mathematics Education (DREME) Network is to advance the field of early mathematics research in the U.S., significantly improving how early math is taught and learned. The central goal is to improve children’s early math competence and in turn their overall education success. The Network will focus on mathematics from birth through age eight years, with an emphasis on the preschool level. 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. Four research and development projects are underway, but Marsico is primarily engaged in the following two:

  •  Preschool-Elementary Coherence (COHERE): This 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 (EF):  This 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.
Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2)

In the course of decades of research and development work funded by the Heising Simons Foundation, Gates, National Science Foundation and Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Drs. Clements and Sarama have developed a powerful tool for professional development of teachers of early mathematics, “Building Blocks Learning Trajectories” (BBLT) web application. This software tool 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. Currently we are working to revise the BBLT in with enhanced videos and functioning that will be available on multiple technology platforms, funded by the Heising Simons Foundation.

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.

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.