Jennifer McCray, Ph.D. Principal Investigator
Jennifer McCray, Ph.D. Principal Investigator

Jennifer McCray, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Jennifer McCray earned both her master’s and doctorate degrees at Erikson Institute. A former preschool teacher, she has taught pre- and in-service preschool and elementary teachers for the past eight years.In addition to directing the Early Math Collaborative, Jennifer conducts research on preschool teaching and learning. Her dissertation, which focused on preschool teachers’ understanding of mathematics, recently won two national awards.

Publications

  • McCray, J.

    (2019). Creating Sustainable Excellence in Mathematics: Applying a Whole Center Approach. A paper for the Society for Research on Child Development.

    Society for Research in Child Development
  • Chen, J-Q., McCray, J.

     Intentional teaching: Integrating the processes of instruction and construction to promote quality early mathematics education. In Kortemkamp, U., Brandt, B., Benz, C., Krummheuer, G., Ladel, S., Vogel, R. (Eds.), Early mathematics learning: Selected papers of the POEM 2012 conference. New York, NY: Springer.

  • Chen, J-Q., McCray, J.

     (2012). The what, how, and why of effective teacher professional development in early mathematics education. NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, 15(1), 113-121. doi: 10.1080/15240754.2011.636493

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    Abstract

    In this essay, we describe a conceptual framework designed specially to guide early childhood teacher professional development. Called development of the whole teacher, the framework emphasizes promoting all aspects of teacher’s growth, including attitudes, knowledge, and practice. To exemplify the framework, we describe an Early Mathematics Education Project that is guided by the whole teacher approach for setting program goals, selecting instructional strategies, and evaluating outcomes. The utility power of the whole teacher approach to teacher professional development is discussed in terms of four interrelated characteristics, namely, multidimensional, integrated, developmental, and contextualized.

  • McCray, J., Chen, J-Q.

     (2012). Pedagogical content knowledge for preschool mathematics: Construct validity of a new teacher interview. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 26(3), 291-307. doi: 10.1080/02568543.2012.685123

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    Abstract

    This study examines the construct validity of a new teacher interview designed to assess teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for preschool mathematics. PCK describes the subject matter knowledge a teacher needs for effective teaching. Data from 22 teachers and 113 Head Start children in a large midwestern city in the United States were used to test predictive relationships between the PCK interview and two dependent variables: good preschool math teaching practices and improved child learning outcomes. Using a method from previous published work, frequency of math-related language is assessed as a proxy for good preschool math teaching. Changes in children’s mathematical achievement were measured from fall to spring within a single school year using the Test of Early Mathematics Ability (3rd ed.). Analysis by hierarchical linear modeling found significant positive relationships between scores on the new measure and both variables, suggesting that the PCK interview adequately represents the knowledge needed for effective teaching of preschool mathematics. A theoretical framework for the interview’s construction is provided.

  • Chen, J-Q., McCray, J.

     (2012). A conceptual framework for teacher professional development: The whole teacher approach. NHSA Dialog: A Research-to-Practice Journal for the Early Childhood Field, 15(1), 8-23. doi: 10.1080/15240754.2011.636491

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    Abstract

    In this article, we describe a conceptual framework for in-service professional development—the Whole Teacher approach. A significant departure from the traditional approach to professional development that speaks primarily to teachers’ acquisition of knowledge and skills, the Whole Teacher framework emphasizes promoting all aspects of a teacher’s development, including attitudes, knowledge, and practice. Putting the framework in operation, we describe a project proven to be effective in helping to develop teachers’ competence and increase children’s performance in early mathematics. We focus on how the Whole Teacher framework guided the project’s design, implementation, and program evaluation. The article concludes with a discussion regarding the significance of the Whole Teacher approach to teacher professional development.
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Research Presentations

  • Cerezci, B., Brownell, J., Chen, J-Q., McCray, J.

     (2013, April). HIS-EM: Examining quality mathematics teaching in early childhood classrooms. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Loyola University Interdisciplinary Research Symposium for Graduate School Students, Chicago, IL.

    Loyola University Interdisciplinary Research Symposium for Graduate School Students Read More

    Abstract

    High quality education in math for young children builds a strong foundation for future mathematics learning. Evidence is clear that early mathematics achievement is associated with later school success, but the field lacks clear definition of excellence in early mathematics teaching. We are also short of available tools to assist teachers and teacher educators in monitoring or assessing classrooms around mathematics teaching. The purpose of this poster was to introduce High Impact Strategies in Early Mathematics, (HIS-EM), an observational tool designed to identify and measure the frequency of high quality mathematics teaching practices in preschool through third grade and to report its early findings.

  • Chen, J-Q., McCray, J.

     (2013, April). Understanding teachers’ attitudes and beliefs in early mathematics teaching. Session at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

    American Education Research Association
  • Cerezci, B., McCray, J.

     (2012, June). Examining quality mathematics teaching in early childhood classrooms: Preliminary results of the HIS-EM teacher observation. Paper session presented at the annual meeting of the Illinois Education Research Council, Tinley Park, IL.

    Illinois Education Research Council
  • McCray, J.

     (2012, March). It’s not as easy as 1-2-3: The complexities of early mathematics. Invited address at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Center for Mathematics Conference, Lexington, KY.

    Kentucky Center for Mathematics Conference
  • McCray, J.

     (2008, March). Environmental checklist for preschool mathematics correlates with teaching practices: Evaluating the Math-Rich Environment Checklist (MRE). Annual Conference of the American Education Research Association Meeting, New York, NY.

    American Education Research Association
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Teacher Education Presentations

  • McCray, J., Brownell, J., Hynes-Berry, M.

    (2016). Building math with big ideas. Presentation at the National Association of the Education of Young Children Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA.

    National Association for the Education of Young Children Read More

    Abstract

    The Big Ideas of early math are not maxims to be memorized and repeated by young children; instead, they are the key understandings that teachers of young children should emphasize as they support preschool learning experiences. When teachers have a deep, connected understanding of these Big Ideas, they are prepared to plan for and respond to children’s activities and learning in ways that clarify thinking and emphasize the kinds of knowledge that are generative of later, elementary level math ideas. Our team has identified three Big Ideas related to number sense: 1) The quantity of a small set can be perceived intuitively without counting; 2) Quantity is an attribute of a set of objects and we use numbers to name specific quantities; and 3) Numbers are used in many ways, some more mathematical than others. The first idea, that the quantity of a small set can be intuitively perceived, without counting, helps teachers see the power of subitizing and visual number sense for helping children understand number. The second idea, that number is a way of describing the amount of a set, goes to the purpose of numbers, a topic that is often over-looked in the early childhood curriculum. The third idea, that numbers are used in many ways, reminds teachers that not all examples of numbers carry an equal amount of explanatory information. These ideas will each be fully explored, with multiple examples.

  • McCray, J.

     (2013, July). The common core state standards for mathematics. Implications for early childhood. Presentation at the CME Group Foundation Early Math Education Conference, Chicago, IL.

    CME Group Foundation Early Math Education Conference
  • McCray, J., Itzkowich, R.

     (2010, October). Counting is Complex. Presentation at the annual meeting of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children, Springfield, Illinois.

    Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children
  • McCray, J.

     (2009, October). Content strands in U.S. early childhood mathematics: Core concepts as a unifying framework. Invited address at the 2009 International Forum on Early Childhood Development and Education, Shanghai, China.

    International Forum on Early Childhood Development and Education
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Associated Ideas

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What Teachers Know About Math with Jennifer McCray and Jie-Qi Chen

Jie-Qi Chen and Jennifer McCray review answers they received from a survey administered to early education teachers. The survey prompted the teachers to imagine that they were giving advice to a new teacher, "Tina," who had some questions about parts of the curriculum. Dr. Jie-Qi Chen is the Principal Investigator of the Early Math Collaborative…

Video icon GNRL005-1 preschool educational game

The Math in Blocks

Jennifer McCray, director of the Early Math Collaborative, provides a play-by-play narration as a pre-k teacher leads her students through a tower building exercise with blocks. McCray provides insights into the complexity and impact of this seemingly simple activity.

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