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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy


Press Room

Marsico Directors Featured on PBS Newshour

A PBS Newshour segment recently featured Marsico Co-Executive Director’s Drs. Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama for their curriculum “Building Blocks,” a research-backed math curriculum that has transformed pre-k classrooms in Boston.

Boston has been gaining praise for their city-wide preschool initiatives, which is largely due to their emphasis on a quality early mathematics program that is proven to have long term benefits.

[Watch the full segment here]

pbs julie

As recognition for their work in this field, PBS interviewed the Marsico researchers and curriculum authors, highlighting how a high-quality early mathematics education is vs both vital and all too ubiquitous in classrooms in the US.

The Building Blocks curriculum has also recently been implemented in about half of all NYC preschool classrooms as part of their new “free pre-k for all initiative,” showing that the research that Clements and Sarama are conducting has noticeable and lasting impacts on some of our country’s biggest cities and littlest learners.

Marsico commissioned to evaluate jeffco prosperity project

Marsico staff members have recently been commissioned to serve as the external evaluators for the Jeffco Prosperity Project (JPP), a local collaboration aimed at tackling poverty in the greater Denver area. Over the next three years, our Assistant Director of Research Dr. Crystal Day-Hess will be collecting data to evaluate the project and provide strategic feedback to maximize the JPP’s positive impact on the local community.

Since 2010, the JPP has been changing the way human services and education services are provided to low-income families with their innovative, implementation-ready program that aims to see tangible improvements by the end of the 2017-2018 school year. Made possible by contributions from key partners like Colorado Head Start, the JPP provides vital support services for families, including those that focus on school readiness, family self-sufficiency, and health/mental health well-being.

2016 STEM Symposium at white house

Washington, DC - April 21st, 2016: Marsico's Co-Executive Director Dr. Douglas Clements was honored to be a featured speaker at the White House last month, for an Early Childhood STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Symposium, where he spoke to a packed audience about the vital role that math education plays in early learning and cognitive development. Building on #STEMStartsEarly efforts and the 'Educate to Innovate' agenda, the symposium served to highlight the latest research findings, which show that early exposure to STEM "has positive impacts across the entire spectrum of learning."

Dr. Clements delivered a captivating speech to kick-off the symposium. As a nation, we "must do better," he said, emphasizing the need for government leaders to provide our schools and other education support programs with the knowledge and resources to promote STEM learning in developmentally appropriate ways.

Continuing to share the important research findings that he, along with his colleagues here at the Marsico Institute, are doing with Washington, D.C., Dr. Clements later testified at a congressional briefing that served to promote early STEM policy initiatives. His central message to the White House Symposium, and later to Congress, was one that unfortunately many educators and policy-makers still find surprising: strong foundations in math not only predict later science, math, and engineering achievement, but are actually proven to predict long-term literacy achievement as well, and thus serves a vital role for children's well-being that is sustained over the course of a lifetime. 

Marsico at rmecc 16

Julie and DougMarch 2016

Marsico Co-Executive Directors Drs. Doug Clements and Julie Sarama were honored to be the keynote speakers at this years Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference (RMECC) conference. They presented on "The Building Blocks of Mathematics," which stressed the importance of a mathematics in early learning by summarizing recent research and development work, including works they helped write including the National Research Council report on early childhood mathematics, the report of President Bush's National Math Advisory Panel, and the Common Core.

marsico teamAlso making their mark on RMECC 2016 were Marsico Graduate Research Assistants Heather Blizzard, Ksenia Polson, and Laura Dietert. They delivered a captivating and informative workshop entitled "The Power of Knowledge: Teaching Geometry to Young Children," in which participants learned how to move beyond simply matching and naming shapes to describing the key characteristics that comprise a geometric shape. Their workshop instructed participants on the appropriate instructional strategies to ensure pre-school children learn proper geometric concepts which in turn reinforce strong learning foundations. The workshop was engaging and the potential for their teachings to have an immediate impact was obvious. As Presenter Heather Blizzard puts it, "a number of the teachers in the audience commented that they could not wait to share what they had learned!"

marsico gra laura dietert gives keynote presentation

Laura Dietert

February 2016

Congratulations to Marsico GRA Laura Dietert on having her keynote presentation featured in the press! Laura's presentation at the Northeastern Junior College's annual Early Childhood Education Conference focused on the importance of teaching math to preschoolers, highlighting that "children can learn amazingly broad, complex things and they intuitively have math abilities."

"Your job is extremely important and to add the math numbers to it is relatively simple, but it's going to take a habit change. Instead of saying to a child can you get me that pen, you could say, 'can you get me one pen;' when you're passing out plates for snack, 'we need six plates,'" Dietert told the teachers.

Read the full article about Laura's presentation here!

Learning executive function and early education

julie doug carrieJanuary 2016

Marsico Co- Executive Directors Drs. Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama, teamed up with Dr. Carrie Germeroth, have recently published a new article entitled "Learning Executive Function and Early Mathematics: Directions of Causal Relations." Their paper examines executive function, commonly defined as the suite of mental processes that control, supervise, and regulate one's own thought processes and behaviors, and its relationship to early mathematics. Drs. Clements, Sarama and Germeroth first review evidence to determine whether executive function (EF) is malleable and can be taught in schools, or if EF skills are both innate and finite and thus cannot be improved by academic intervention. They then examine the role of early mathematics in developing EF skills by posing that the relationship between the two may in fact be more closely integrated than the existing research suggests, indicating the need for more in-depth studies that integrate both EF and early mathematics, such as the Marsico Institute's DREME Network ‘Math and Executive Function' project. Their publication concludes that high-quality mathematics education, particularly in the years most crucial to EF development, has the dual benefit of strengthening EF skills while also increasing mathematical competencies and long-term academic achievement.

To read the full article, click here.

dr. clements and dr. sarama receive the 2015 innovator award

Doug and JulieDecember 2015

The Marsico Institute is proud to announce that our Co-Executive Directors, Dr. Douglas H. Clements and Dr. Julie Sarama, are the recipients of the 2015 Innovator Award for their contributions to Connect4Learning: The Pre-K Curriculum. This honor was presented to them by the Kaplan Early Learning Company and the Leon & Renee Kaplan Foundation for the Health and Well-being of Children as a recognition for their innovative approach to teaching mathematics in early childhood education.

"It's exciting to see the results from the years of piloting this curriculum in classrooms," says Kyra Ostendorf, VP of Curriculum, Assessment, and Professional Development at Kaplan Early Learning Company. "Connect4Learning flips the curriculum, putting math and science at the forefront with literacy and social-emotional development woven throughout. Doug and Julie's vision is that all children can excel. This curriculum supports that focus."

Marsico on education talk radio

November 2015

Marsico's Co-Executive Directors Dr. Julie Sarama and Dr. Doug Clements will be interviewed by Education Talk Radio today, November 6 at 10AM MT / Noon ET! They will be discussing about their pre-k curriculum, Connect4Learning. Follow the link to listen LIVE!

Marsico joins City of phoenix head start

Dr. Doug Clements

October 2015

The Marsico team was working with the City of Phoenix Head Start to support over 400 teachers in learning about the foundations of early mathematics. Teachers are learning to observe children's developmental levels in counting and shape to make more differentiated instructional choices.

Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences Congressional Briefing

clements congressional briefingSeptember 2015

Co-director Dr. Doug Clements at the congressional briefing with the Friends of the Institute of Education Sciences on September 25th. The briefing entitled "Building Strength in Numbers: How Do Early Interventions in Math Instruction Add Up?" discussed research in regards to the development of math interest and skills in young children and the role of early math achievement in predicting a range of later achievement outcomes.

Click here to see the complete set of slides from the briefing. 


August 2015

With Building Blocks, students don't just learn to count and add. One key part of the curriculum is geometry, which its co-creator, Marsico Institute's Executive Director Douglas Clements, says is key for understanding mathematical relationships.


STEM Solutions LogoJuly 2015

At the 2015 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference panelists spoke about how children learn STEM at a young age. Read more about what the experts said about closing achievement gaps, including Dr. Douglas Clements tip on encouraging educators to take a playful approach to math.