Digital Engagement at Home Increases Early Math Skills

Digital learning games based on “Curious George” and “The Cat in the Hat” can boost preschoolers’ math knowledge and skills, making them better prepared for entry into kindergarten. That’s the finding of a new research study from WestEd that engaged low-income parents and their preschool children with online games and at-home activities from PBS KIDS. The study, along with other support for PBS KIDS, was made possible by a grant from the Office of Innovation and Improvement’s Ready to Learn Television (RTL) program. 

PBS KIDS Mathematics Transmedia Suites in Preschool Homes book cover

For eight weeks last summer, families  in Richmond, Ca., participated in weekly parent meetings to learn about math games and other resources from PBS KIDS and were introduced to “transmedia suites” — digital games  that span platforms such as computers, tablets, and smart phones and are connected by common storylines and curricular goals. Parents were encouraged to play the games with their kids and access other cross-platform activities for 30 minutes, four days a week, and the families were provided with Internet-enabled, portable computers. To see the kinds of online games and home learning activities the preschoolers and their parents in the research study experienced, click here.

Children exposed to the transmedia suites and related support materials from PBS KIDS outscored a comparison group on a widely used test that measures such math concepts as numbers and counting.  “It’s encouraging to see that educational content intended for child and family use at home can have a positive impact on kids’ school readiness,” said Betsy McCarthy, lead investigator for the study. Click here to read and download the full study report or here for the executive summary. Research into the effects of transmedia resources on teaching literacy and math skills to young children is a key component of the current RTL grant to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS.


February 6th is Digital Learning Day, a national celebration of educators that shines a spotlight on successful instructional technology practice in classrooms across the country. Participation is free, and a highlight is the National Digital Town Hall that will be simulcast live from the Newseum in Washington, D.C.