Keting Chen

Keting Chen is pictured outside of the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Keting Chen is using her passion for early childhood education and development to study the relationship between preschoolers’ environments and their numeracy skills.

Chen, human sciences graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said she wanted to do research regarding young children and their numeracy skills because students of all ages struggle with math. When children are learning their numeracy skills, it can be an indicator of their future academic success in math. 

Chen said she wanted to study how children can learn their numeracy skills successfully because it could mean that they will have a better opportunity of understanding math as they grow up. 

Chen said she picked her major in early childhood education because she thought being a preschool teacher and playing with children would be fun.

“When I started more in this field, I found that education is also a kind of a science and it is not easy work,” Chen said. “To be a better educator, I must understand what and how children learn and about their development.”

Chen said she found that she was interested in research and studying how children learn and develop, so she started digging more into different research and studies.

While reading numerous research articles, Chen said she found that early numeracy skills are important for children because it builds the foundation for their future in learning math. Chen said she noticed there were large differences among preschoolers when it came to their numeracy skills, and she wanted to know more about why.

The early childhood environment, including home and childhood care, are the places where children first gain their experience of numeracy skills, according to Chen. Chen said she wanted to know the association between the early childhood environment and a child’s numeracy skills and their development of numeracy skills, so it became the focus of her dissertation project.

In September, Chen was awarded a one-year grant by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute’s Graduate Scholars program for her research on children and their numeracy skills, according to Nebraska Today.

Samantha Moore, senior psychology and chemistry double major, said she met Chen when she first started her undergraduate lab during her sophomore year. 

Moore is a research assistant for Chen’s dissertation project. She works with Chen to recruit participants, collect and analyze data and assist with the writing of the research, according to Moore. 

On Oct. 30, the UNL Institutional Review Board approved Chen’s research, according to Chen and Moore. Moore said they are currently working on participant recruitment and they are planning to start collecting data in the next month or so.

Moore said Chen is one of the hardest workers she has had the opportunity to work with.

“It’s been great to go as a student and watch her, and kind of model her internal work ethic with my own and try to do as she does,” Moore said.

Moore said Chen has a sunny personality, and that Chen is always careful when it comes to her work.

“She’s a bright light in the UNL community,” Moore said. “She has a lot of wonderful contributions that she has already made and that she’ll continue to make.”

Chen said she hopes her research gives a better understanding for teachers and parents on how to help children learn and develop their numeracy skills.

“Hopefully my findings can benefit more educators,” Chen said. ”Then those educators help educate children to be more successful for their future learning of math.”