New Study Finds First-Graders’ Math Knowledge Increases with PBS KIDS’ ODD SQUAD
Research shows that content from popular PBS KIDS series helps children from low-income families boost knowledge of numbers and operations, algebraic thinking
Apr 06, 2016
San Francisco, CA – April 6, 2016 – First-graders’ knowledge of algebraic thinking, as well as of numbers and operations, increased significantly during a recent WestEd study in which the children, their families, and their teachers used digital and hands-on resources based on the PBS KIDS series ODD SQUAD. Materials used in the classroom by teachers and participating children, and at home by children and their families, included ODD SQUAD television episodes, online games, video clips, and hands-on activities.
In the study, ODD SQUAD: Learning Math with PBS KIDS Transmedia Content at School and Home, WestEd researchers worked with four first-grade teachers and followed 83 first-graders and their families in school and home settings over four weeks.
The intervention focused on two math concepts: algebraic thinking, and numbers and operations. Teachers used episodes from ODD SQUAD, along with related online games, short video clips, and hands-on activities, in their classroom instruction. As part of the intervention, students created ODD SQUAD team badges and were invited to enter the narrative world of the show and act out roles, working as a team to solve math problems. At home, parents were encouraged to watch an ODD SQUAD episode with their child, then discuss it and do an activity together about the math content in the episode.
Key findings include:
- Students were very motivated and worked hard to solve the math problems.
- Over the course of the ODD SQUAD intervention, students’ overall knowledge of algebraic thinking, and numbers and operations, increased significantly. Average assessment scores increased from 42.8 prior to the intervention to 48.7 afterwards.
- In sub-categories of mathematical knowledge, students showed significant and positive changes in the following domains:
- Skip counting: assessment scores rose from 10.92 to 13.61
- Pattern recognition: assessment scores rose from 9.49 to 10.12
- Simple addition and subtraction: assessment scores rose from 18.72 to 20.
“The study results suggest that ODD SQUAD resources from PBS KIDS and the Ready To Learn initiative are supporting mathematics learning in the classroom and at home,” said Betsy McCarthy, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate of the STEM Program at WestEd and the study’s principal researcher.
Parents and teachers both mentioned that, by inviting the first-graders to help solve “cases” that involved using math, the materials boosted children’s interest in math and in solving the problems.
“[They were] highly, highly engaged…The number lines were good. The videos were fantastic. We still watch ODD SQUAD,” said one first-grade teacher.
The study was conducted on behalf of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the PBS Ready To Learn initiative. The Ready To Learn initiative is administered and funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, whose goal is to promote early learning and school readiness among young children ages 2 through 8, with a particular mission to reach children from low-income families. In addition to creating television and other media products, the program supports activities intended to promote national distribution of the programming, effective educational uses of the programming, community-based outreach, and research on educational effectiveness.
As a centerpiece of the Ready To Learn Initiative, ODD SQUAD has introduced millions of American children to math concepts and practices such as critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving. Last year, the series reached 10.6 million children.*
This research study is the sixth WestEd study that has analyzed and found positive effects on early learning from PBS KIDS’ television, hands-on activities, and interactive content. Previous studies have demonstrated the learning impact of other PBS KIDS series, specifically, PEG + CAT, THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT!, SID THE SCIENCE KID, and CURIOUS GEORGE. In addition to increases in children’s achievement in important skill areas, previous studies have shown that PBS KIDS resources increase parent engagement in their children’s learning.
ODD SQUAD is created by Tim McKeon (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Adventure Time, The Electric Company) and Adam Peltzman (The Electric Company, The Backyardigans, Wallykazam!) and produced by The Fred Rogers Company and Sinking Ship Entertainment.
WestEd is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research, development, and service agency that works with education and other communities throughout the United States and abroad to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. WestEd has more than a dozen offices nationwide, from Massachusetts, Vermont, and Georgia, to Illinois, Arizona, and California, with headquarters in San Francisco. More information about WestEd is available at wested.org, Twitter, and Facebook.
About PBS KIDS
PBS KIDS, the number one educational media brand for kids, offers all children the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television, digital platforms, and community-based programs. Kidscreen- and Webby-award-winning pbskids.org provides engaging interactive content, including digital games and streaming video. PBS KIDS also offers mobile apps to help support young children’s learning. The PBS KIDS Video App is available on a variety of mobile devices and on platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Xbox One, and Chromecast. For more information on specific PBS KIDS content supporting literacy, science, math and more, visit pbs.org/pressroom, or follow PBS KIDS on Twitter and Facebook.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,400 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit www.cpb.org and follow on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
The contents of this release were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. [PR/Award No. U295A100025, CFDA No. 84.295A]
* Source: Nielsen NPOWER, L+7, 2015 CY, TD w specials, K2-11, 6+min., 50% unif.