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  • Topic: Parent Mediation; Early Learning; Mathematics
  • Title: Learning to Learn: Early Learning Behaviors of Young Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Children with High/Low Mathematics Ability
  • Contact Information: Dr. Claudia Pagliaro/Michigan State University & Dr. Karen Kritzer/Kent State University
  • Type of Research: Qualitative
  • Subject Pool: Description:Parents of young deaf and hard-of-hearing (d/hh) children (ages 4-6 years).
  • Setting: Home environment.
  • Number: Six d/hh children (3 of relatively high mathematics ability and 3 children of relative low mathematics ability) and their families participated in the study. Participants are a subset of a larger study (n=29).
  • Research Description:

Existing Knowledge Base:
Deaf/Hard-of-hearing students consistently demonstrate low levels of mathematics achievement in both computation and problem solving including tasks involving reasoning and logical thinking (Allen, 1995; Ansell & Pagliaro, 2006; Marschark & Everhart, 1999; Traxler, 2000). Research indicates that these lags in achievement might begin at an early age, prior to formal schooling (Kritzer, in review; Kritzer, 2008; Leybaert & Van Cutsem, 2000), and have a foundation in parent-child interaction patterns (Kritzer, in-press; Kritzer, 2008). The purpose of the study is to identify and compare early learning behaviors as demonstrated by young d/hh children with relatively high and low mathematics ability as determined by the Test of Early Mathematics Ability (TEMA-3).

Research Questions:
Specifically, the study seeks to answer the following two research questions:
  • What early learning behaviors are demonstrated by young d/hh children with high/low mathematics ability during a day spent with their families?
  • What factors in the early learning environment including parental mediation contribute to the early learning behaviors of young d/hh children with high/low mathematics ability?

In order to further understand the impact of the home environment and specifically parent-child interaction on mathematics readiness, the present study examined the general early learning behaviors demonstrated by young deaf children who exhibited high and low levels of mathematical ability. Six d/hh children (3 of relatively high mathematics ability and 3 children of relative low mathematics ability) were observed interacting with their families during a full day. The child’s activities and parent-child interactions were identified every 10 minutes and recorded in the form of field notes by one of the researchers. These behaviors are being coded using NVivo software and analyzed qualitatively for evidence of child learning behaviors and contributing environmental factors including parental mediation.
It is hypothesized that children with higher levels of mathematical ability will exhibit more positive early learning behaviors; i.e., actively engage with their environment and seek information by asking questions. In addition, it is expected that these children will be from homes in which they spend a great deal of time interacting with adults, are more likely to be asked cognitively-engaging questions, and are encouraged to participate in active, mediated learning activities.
Findings from this study could have implications for parents of d/hh children, teacher educators, and practitioners regarding the qualities of positive learning environments, in general and specific to foundational mathematics concepts, particularly at the parent-infant and early childhood stages. Inclusion of these results in the preparation of deaf education teachers will allow early intervention specialists to inform and guide parents in creating a positive learning environment at home. Positive mediating behaviors demonstrated by parents in the study can inform deaf education teachers in the classroom as well.


Allen, T.E. (1995). Demographics and national achievement levels for deaf and hard of
hearing students: Implications for mathematics reform. In C.H Dietz (Ed.) Moving toward the Standards: A national action plan for mathematics education reform for the deaf, 41-49. Washington DC: Pre-College Programs, Gallaudet University.

Ansell, E. & Pagliaro, C.M. (2006). The relative difficulty of signed arithmetic story problems for primary level deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 11(2), 153-170.
Kritzer, K.L. (in preparation) Barely Started and Already Left Behind: An Analysis of the
Mathematics Ability Demonstrated by Young Deaf Children.

Kritzer, K.L. (in press). Families with young deaf children and the mediation of mathematically-based concepts within a naturalistic environment. American Annals of the Deaf.
Kritzer, K.L. (2008). Family mediation of mathematically based concepts while engaged in a problem-solving activity with their young deaf children. The Journal of DeafStudies and Deaf Education; doi 10.1093/deafed/enn007.
Leybaert, J., & Van Cutsem, (2002). Counting in sign language. Journal of
Experimental Child Psychology, 81, 482-501.

Marschark, M. & Everhart, V. (1999). Problem-solving by deaf and hearing students: Twenty Questions. Deafness and Education International, 1(2), 65-82.
Traxler, C.B. (2000). The Stanford Achievement Test, 9th Edition: National norming and performance standards for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 5(4), 337-348.

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