New Research Analysis Shows Arts-Integrated Teaching Translates to Additional Month of Math Learning | Wolf Trap
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New Research Analysis Shows Arts-Integrated Teaching Translates to Additional Month of Math Learning

Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts

Vienna, Va. (February 16, 2016)Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts today released a new analysis from American Institutes for Research (AIR) that show arts-integrated teaching methods in early childhood education can increase students’ math achievement by providing the equivalent of more than a month of additional learning. This analysis supplements initial results from a study released in 2015, which revealed a statistically significant, positive impact on math skills for students in the classrooms of teachers who participated in Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts’ professional development program. Read the full research brief here.

The AIR study examined the effects of the arts-integrated teaching approach on teachers’ practice and students’ math knowledge through a randomized experiment. The Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts (Early STEM/Arts) program adapted the Wolf Trap Institute’s established model for professional development to concentrate on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), with a special focus on math. While numerous studies show links between arts-integration and positive student outcomes1, this study is unique in that it examined early childhood arts-integration in particular.

“We have seen through decades of practice and research that integrating the arts into core subjects helps young students learn better,” said Arvind Manocha, president and CEO of Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. “This new analysis from AIR shows that incorporating music, movement, drama, and puppetry into early childhood education results in significant learning increases in mathematics – something that has been documented to be a key factor in improving life outcomes for young children2. The arts are a powerful learning tool.”

According to the AIR study, students who were taught by teachers participating in Wolf-Trap’s early STEM/Arts program outperformed their peers on the Early Math Diagnostic Assessment (EMDA). The first-year impact is equivalent to 1.3 additional months of learning, or 26 additional days. In the second year, AIR found a sustained impact amounting to 1.7 additional months of learning, or 34 additional days, even though not all students continued to be taught by teachers participating in the program.

Previous research has documented that students whose teachers participated in Wolf Trap’s professional development program demonstrated higher levels of skill in initiative, social relations, creative representation, music, movement, logic, and mathematics compared with students whose teachers had not participated.

Other key findings from the AIR study include:
  • Lessons taught by Wolf Trap teachers offered more opportunities for arts integration, and demonstrated higher levels of arts integration, particularly with respect to linking arts with math learning.
  • Wolf Trap’s Early STEM/Arts program demonstrated features of effective, high-quality professional development. In measuring Wolf Trap’s model against standards of effective professional development, research confirms that Wolf Trap provides high quality professional development by thoroughly integrating: form, duration, collective participation, content focus, active learning, and coherence.

Arts-integrated learning combines content and skills from the arts, including singing, dancing, role-playing, and storytelling, with core subjects such as language, literacy and math. To help build that skillset, the Wolf Trap Institute professional development model pairs early childhood educators with professional teaching artists—musicians, dancer, actors, and puppeteers—to train through classroom residencies. In the randomized experiment conducted by AIR between 2010 and 2014, 80 pre-K and kindergarten teachers in Fairfax County participated in the study and 48 received eight days of professional development sessions at Wolf Trap's Summer Institute, followed by a 16 eight-week residency in which teaching artists visited their teachers' schools twice a week during the school year.

“Through arts integration, our teachers and teaching artists tap into children’s innate desire for active learning through the senses to inspire deeper, more meaningful learning across subject areas that will position pre-K students for higher achievement in kindergarten and beyond,” said Akua Kouyate-Tate, Senior Director of Education at Wolf Trap Foundation. “The Wolf Trap model prepares teachers with a variety of strategies to engage students in the performing arts in ways that become learning experiences and build foundational skills for literacy, mathematical thinking, and scientific inquiry.”

Teachers who participated in the Early STEM/Arts program received up to 101 hours of professional development, including ongoing coaching from Wolf Trap Teaching Artists. Students received the benefit of a teacher well versed in effective arts-integration strategies, as well as direct classroom experiences with Wolf Trap Teaching Artists in residence.

Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Arts in Education Model Development and Dissemination” program, the randomized controlled trial took place over four years across 18 Fairfax County Public Schools. The same grant contributed to the replication of Wolf Trap’s program to 16 other Affiliate sites across the nation.


Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts presents and produces a full range of performance and education programs in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, as well as nationally and internationally. Wolf Trap’s education programs include the nationally acclaimed Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, which provides innovative arts-based teaching strategies and services to early childhood teachers, caregivers, and children from birth through Kindergarten.

Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit


  1. For related research on arts teaching strategies, see: Catterall, Dumais, & Hampden-Thompson, 2012; Upitis & Smithrim, 2003; Wilcox, R.A., Bridges, S.L., & Montgomery, D., 2010.
  2. Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C.J., Classens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A.C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). “School readiness and later achievement,” Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446

For more information, interview requests and images, please contact:

Michelle Pendoley, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts
O: (703) 255-1917