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The Promise and Practice of Family Math for Young Children

This presentation features four national experts on the critical role of families in children’s math learning. The presenters will discuss scientific evidence demonstrating the importance of early math learning for later achievement, and the impact families have on young children’s math learning. The presenters will also address the powerful role that cultural strengths play in family math, providing evidence from research with Spanish-speaking and Spanish-English bilingual families. Building from this evidence, the presentation will conclude by featuring stories from a practice network that has been building opportunities and support for family math through partnerships between community organizations, community members, and families.

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Eric Dearing is Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and a Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Center for Child Behavioral Development at the University of Oslo. Eric’s work is focused on the consequences of children’s lives outside of school for their performance in school, with attention to the power of families, early education and care, and neighborhood supports to bolster achievement for children growing up poor. Presently, as a member of the Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME) Network, he is investigating the importance of families and early educators for low-income children’s math learning.

Eric Dearing

Gigliana Melzi is Associate Professor of Applied Psychology, Affiliated Faculty at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and of the Latinx Project at New York University.  She is also the Director of the Culture, Families, and Early Development Lab. Dr. Melzi’s work focuses on the intersection of cultural and linguistic practices and their relation to children’s early development and learning, in particular, that of dual-language learners from immigrant Latine/x communities. Using mixed-methodology and emic approaches, Dr. Melzi's work investigates how Latine/x immigrant families support their children's learning, the role language plays in that process, and how the educational system can leverage these practices to support children’s school-based learning. Her work adopts a collaborative research stance, working in partnership with Latine/x communities and educational centers serving Latine/x families. In her most recent work as part of a cross-university effort to enhance the Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME) network, Dr. Melzi is investigating the everyday family math talk in Spanish-speaking and Spanish-English bilingual immigrant homes of preschool-aged children.

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Gigliana Melzi

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Margaret Caspe

Margaret Caspe, PhD, is a senior research consultant with the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE).  There she co-leads the Educator Preparation For Family Engagement Project which is a collaborative of national partners and state, school, and higher education teams dedicated to supporting educator preparation in family engagement. She is also a key staff member of the Center for Family Math. Over the past 20 years, she has studied how partnerships among families, schools, and communities influence children’s development in a variety of areas, including language and literacy, and bilingualism, as well as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). She is co-editor of A Librarian’s Guide to Engaging Families in Learning, and Promising Practices for Engaging Families in STEM Learning and author of a variety of articles published in journals such as Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Childhood Education, and Young Children. Margaret earned her Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University, where she currently teaches courses in child language development as an adjunct faculty member. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three daughters.

Donna Johnson, MS, is the Assistant Director of School Support Services of the Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute.  She is also a key member of the Center for Family Math. Much of her work with the Early Math Collaborative is focused on providing math-focused professional development and coaching for caregivers of children 0-3 yrs old and PreK-5th grade teachers, and providing instructional support to administrators, site directors, and educational coordinators around math instruction. Donna holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.  Her passion for teaching and learning led her from engineering into education, where she was involved in teaching children of all ages in nontraditional settings for over 15 years. Donna is also one of the authors of Big Ideas of Early Mathematics, What Teachers of Young Children Need to Know, and Growing Mathematical Minds.  An avid reader, quilter, and puzzler, Donna is the mother of 5 adult daughters and 6 grandchildren.  She lives in Chicago, IL with her husband Doug.


Donna Johnson

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