Mathematics from the Beginning: Evaluating the Tayari Preprimary Program’s Impact on Early Mathematics Skills



Mathematics, early childhood, evaluation, numeracy, instruction, Sub-Saharan Africa


Given the dearth of research on early numeracy interventions in low- and middle-income countries, this paper presents the instructional methodology and impact results of the Tayari program. Tayari is a preprimary intervention in Kenya (2014–2019) that prepares children aged four and five for entry into primary school through materials for students, training for teachers, and continuous in-classroom support. Evidence points to the long-term benefits of developing an early foundation in mathematics. The few preprimary mathematics studies in sub-Saharan Africa have not described the instructional methodology in enough detail to add to our knowledge of best practices. The Tayari methodology was built on the Kenyan government’s preprimary syllabus to produce instruction that was developmentally sequenced, linked to out-of-school experiences, and supportive of children’s number sense. Tayari is evaluated using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and collection of longitudinal data from 2,957 children in treatment and control schools at three time points. Pupil assessment items were drawn from a growing body of research on preprimary numeracy in developing contexts, plus instruments and techniques from the Measuring Early Learning and Quality Outcomes (MELQO) program (UNESCO, UNICEF, Brookings Institution, & World Bank Group, 2017). The endline impact evaluation of the longitudinal RCT results showed statistically significant effects in the numeracy tasks of producing sets, identifying numbers, and naming shapes, while revealing no initial effects in the areas of oral and mental addition. We present recommendations for Tayari’s improvement in terms of mathematics instruction, as well as preprimary policy implications for Kenya and similar contexts.

Author Biographies

Benjamin Piper, RTI International

Dr. Benjamin Piper is the Senior Director for Africa Education at RTI International. Based in Nairobi, Dr. Piper provides technical support to programs in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He supervises Kenya’s national literacy program, the Tusome Early Grade Reading Activity, funded by USAID; and Kenya’s Tayari ECDE program, sponsored by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Dr. Piper previously led Tusome, the PRIMR Initiative, the National Tablet Programme, and the PRIMR Rural Expansion Programme. He has worked with RTI, the World Bank, DFID, UNICEF, and Save the Children. Dr. Piper has a doctorate in International Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Yasmin Sitabkhan, RTI International

Dr. Yasmin Sitabkhan is a Senior Early Childhood Education Researcher and Advisor in RTI’s International Education Division. In her current role at RTI, Dr. Sitabkhan provides technical support to projects in low- and middleincome countries in early mathematics. Her research interests focus on children’s development of early mathematical concepts and instructional strategies to support learning in low- and middle-income contexts. Dr. Sitabkhan has a Ph.D. in Education from the University of California, Berkeley.

Evangeline Nderu, RTI International

Dr. Evangeline Nderu is the Chief of Party for the Tayari Early Childhood Development programme, an initiative of the Kenyan Ministry of Education implemented by RTI. Her interests include parental involvement in education, mathematics in the early years and incorporating research into policy and practice. Her doctorate is in Education Policy and Administration.