July 2022 Spotlight – Geetha Ramani, PhD

This month, we are delighted to introduce Dr. Geetha Ramani (gramani@umd.edu) as our member in the spotlight. Dr. Ramani is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research is focused on understanding how social interactions influence children’s cognitive development, particularly how children learn math and problem solving skills through play and other learning activities.

Can you write a couple sentences on some aspect of your career development: feel free to pick one or any other related question among these: a) what drew you to do work on Asians, Asian American children and youth, or another topic that is important to you now? b) who was an important mentor to you in this work, or an influential particular study in the field or in a related field? c) any particular advice or tips to someone starting out in the field who is doing work in your area? 

  • My research is focused on the development of early mathematical abilities in diverse populations and the important role that play and social interactions have on children’s mathematical development in both the home and school contexts. I became interested in this area because children’s mathematical knowledge is critical for success in academic contexts and beyond. However, we have found that early mathematical abilities vary greatly when children enter school. Research has shown that these differences can impact later achievement and long-term outcomes, such as educational attainment and career choices. In my research, I aim to identify critical areas of early mathematical knowledge, the benefits and unique processes of learning through joint play and activities with peers and adults, and their importance for constructing effective educational practices in the home and classroom.

A short paragraph describing a particular recent finding, current study, or recent publication and what makes you excited about it.  Feel free to describe its importance from any one or more of these lenses: a) research contribution; b) our knowledge about Asian or Asian American populations; c) our knowledge about other [understudied?] populations; d) practice or policy relevance. 

  • I am excited about a recent study I conducted with my former students, Nicole Scalise and Emily Daubert, that appears in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology. Studies have shown that on average preschoolers from lower-income households perform worse on symbolic numerical tasks, such as recognizing written numbers and comparing numbers, than preschoolers from middle- and upper-income households. However, there is wide variability in mathematical knowledge among preschoolers from lower-income backgrounds, which has received less attention.  To better understand this variability, we conducted a person-centered analysis and found both quantitative and qualitative differences in the patterns of strengths and weaknesses of children’s early numerical knowledge (Scalise, Daubert, & Ramani, 2021). This research is significant because it helps identify specific areas of mathematical knowledge we can target for additional practice to meet the needs of young students from diverse backgrounds. 
  • Scalise, N., Daubert, E. N., & Ramani, G. B. (2021). When one size does not fit all: A latent profile analysis of low-income preschoolers’ math skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 209, 105156https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2021.105156

If you have any thoughts about your experiences with the Asian Caucus, that would be great!  These can be just for the Caucus leadership to know, and/or a message to the Caucus community. 

  • What a great community! I feel very fortunate that we have a community dedicated to supporting and raising the voices of Asian scholars and those who conduct research focused on Asian children and families. I am so honored to be featured in the Spotlight series and I look forward to becoming further involved with the Caucus in the future.

Any upcoming talks or presentations we should know about?

  • My students and I are excited to be giving presentations at the Mathematical Cognition and Learning Society Conference in Antwerp, Belgium in June.    

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