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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new math curriculum designed by SMU professors is helping kindergarteners in Dallas develop necessary skills before they start first grade.

Zariah Arrington may only be 6 years old, but she already knows a lot about math. “It deals with a lot of numbers,” the kindergartener explained, “and numbers are like counting, and I like to count.”

Arrington goes to school at St. Phillips’ Academy in Dallas, where 5-year-old and 6-year-old kids are already learning how to multiply and divide. “It’s a good foundation builder,” explained kindergarten teacher Antoinette Ashley.

The students are mastering basic math concepts thanks to an early education curriculum designed by SMU researchers. “The key here is that early math skills and numeracy is really critical for children to be successful at later math skills,” said David Chard, Dean of the SMU Simmons School of Education. “We really think about it as a prevention program. Children who enter school, who may or may not have had a lot of experience with numbers in their homes and communities, have all the tools that they need to be successful as they move into first grade.”

For the past four years, SMU has studied the curriculum and seen dramatic improvements, particularly in kids at risk of falling behind. “The children have left kindergarten in the four years with a better foundation in early learning and mathematics,” said Sheryl English, one of the researchers at SMU.

“If number sense is not mastered, math is going to be a struggle all the way through,” Ashley said.

And for these young students, the math curriculum is already adding up to success. “I like how you learn your numbers and stuff,” said 6-year-old Dorian Melendez, “and you get to know more and more subtracting and adding.”

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