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Dr. Joanne Meier

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Poverty and planning skills

July 8, 2013

A recent study in the journal Child Development suggests a link between students living in poverty and poor planning skills that extends into several academic areas, including math and reading. Using scores from a strategic puzzle-based task that requires advance planning and tactical moves, researchers found that scores on the planning task in Grade 3 predicted children's reading and math outcomes at Grade 5, even while controlling for IQ.

Study authors Crook and Evans from Cornell University cite previous research that documents the lack of development of early planning skills among children living in poverty. Possible causes of poorer planning can be identified: greater chaos in their daily lives including more family moves and school changes, greater family turmoil and turnover, more crowded and noisy households, higher levels of stress among low-income parents, and fewer structured routines and rituals.

Classroom teachers can do little to ameliorate all the stressors facing children coming from low-income households. However, these findings may provide encouragement for teachers to include more strategy-based, planning-based activities within the classroom.

You can access a PDF of the full study, The Role of Planning Skills in the Income-Achievement Gap, here.


Teachers can provide life-long planning skills throughout the K-12 experience.

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Abraham Lincoln