Designing Studies to Test Causal Questions About Early Math: The Development of Making Pre-K Count

Abstract A growing literature has demonstrated that early math skills are associated with later outcomes for children. This research has generated interest in improving children's early math competencies as a pathway to improved outcomes for children in elementary school. The Making Pre-K Count study was designed to test the effects of an early math intervention for preschoolers. Its design was unique in that, in addition to causally testing the effects of early math skills, it also allowed for the examination of a number of additional questions about scale-up, the influence of contextual factors and the counterfactual environment, the mechanism of long-term fade-out, and the role of measurement in early childhood intervention findings. This chapter outlines some of the design considerations and decisions put in place to create a rigorous test of the causal effects of early math skills that is also able to answer these questions in early childhood mathematics and intervention. The study serves as a potential model for how to advance science in the fields of preschool intervention and early mathematics.