Greg Duncan, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Southern California, Irvine

Duncan published a seminal research paper showing that pre-kindergarten mathematical knowledge is the highest predictor of later academic success.

Duncan gave a talk to the Children and Families Commission of Orange County that bucked the trend of experts promoting social skills over academics in preschool-aged children.

For more than a decade, early childhood educators have focused on early intervention programs that enhance social and emotional development, believing them to be just as important as the components that enhance linguistic and cognitive competence. Duncan told his audience that he has come to “doubt the wisdom of this conclusion, concluding instead that preschool curricula that promote concrete literacy and, especially, numeracy skills are better bets for boosting children’s chances of school success than curricula that focus solely on promoting social and emotional development.”

His work does not disregard the need for social and emotional development in the 0-5 age group, but, rather, Duncan promotes the need to bolster early literacy and numeracy along with social development to enhance children’s life chances.

He is particularly concerned with early math literacy. His work has found that a two-year, center-based early childhood education intervention program can essentially eliminate the income -based gap at age three.

“One of our noteworthy results is that early math skills are the most powerful predictor of later achievement,” he said. “Our findings provide compelling evidence that future research should be devoted to a close examination of efforts to improve math skills prior to school entry.”

Click here to review his presentation to the Commission.