Research-proven Early-intervention Math Program Launches for 2019

July 3, 2019

Media Contact: Tonya B. Hudson, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-710-4656
Meg Cullar, Baylor School of Education, 254-710-6435
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WACO, Texas (July 3, 2019) – Baylor’s Mathematics for Early Learners Academy (MELA) launched its fourth summer of math intervention for struggling young students on Monday, July 1. The program has proven effective in helping pre-K and kindergarten students who were identified as below level in mathematics to achieve and exceed grade level in their mathematics skills.

Founded in 2016 by the Baylor School of Education and Sandi Cooper, Ph.D., professor of mathematics education, the program is expanding this year, with 80 students from La Vega ISD and Waco ISD — 36 who just completed pre-K and 44 who just completed kindergarten. MELA 2019 is funded by a $74,000 grant from Waco’s Cooper Foundation. The partner school districts also provide significant support, including bus transportation and para-professional staff during MELA.

During its first three years, MELA served a total of 62 students in Waco ISD. Of those students, 95 percent were identified as economically disadvantaged and 20 percent were bilingual. Based on assessments, 98 percent of the students finished the MELA program, which comprised 15 mornings of instruction, with scores that were on or above level for the grade they were entering.

“It’s all about gaining number sense, which is composing and decomposing numbers — more than just counting,” Cooper said. “When you think about the number 5, you can see it as a sum of 3 and 2 or of 4 and 1, and there are sets of five and counting by fives. And five can be found in the real world; for example, a nickel represents the number 5. It’s about understanding what numbers mean, not just rote counting.”

Experienced classroom teachers from La Vega and Waco ISD serve MELA as master teachers for each of its six classrooms. In addition, each classroom has two Baylor education students who have completed their junior year. Each Baylor education major has been a student in Cooper’s class to learn methods for teaching mathematics to early learners.

MELA is a four-week experience at the Mayborn Museum. Students meet each morning Monday – Thursday for a variety of math activities, including curriculum using the museum’s exhibits.

“The Mayborn provides appropriate classrooms, but also the students can venture into the wonderful exhibits,” Cooper said. “We go on number walks throughout the museum, and we are able to go into the exhibits to experience mathematical explorations. In the Native American room, for example, the students can use the drums to count out numbers as they beat rhythms, but also create drum patterns.”

Special events during MELA 2019 include:
• Bill Flores, U.S. Representative for Texas’ 17th congressional district, will visit MELA on July 2, accompanied by Dr. Trena Wilkerson, Baylor professor and president-elect of the National Council for Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

•Students will meet Baylor Athletes, learn about how they use mathematics in their sport, and participate in mathematics activities with the athletes. (Date TBA)

• As a culminating activity, MELA students visit the Baylor Bears, Lady and Joy, at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat.
• Parent Night will be July 25 at the Mayborn Museum. Families enjoy pizza and cookies as parents see what their children have been learning over the past four weeks. Families also have the opportunity to enjoy the Mayborn Museum exhibits.

MELA is a four-week experience, four days a week, for three hours each morning. During this time, children participate in activities targeted to build their understanding of early number concepts.

Research has shown that after participating in MELA, students who were previously identified as being consistently below their peers in mathematics were found to be indistinguishable from their peers on a test of broad math ability. This suggests that participating in MELA enabled these students not only to make progress in math ability but also to close the gap between themselves and their peers.
For more information on MELA, visit


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