The Smith Family’s goal is to create opportunities for disadvantaged children and their families. One of the major disadvantages a child can have is a lack of education, so this is the charity’s focus. Research shows that in their first year of school, one in four children who live in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities start school behind on literacy and numeracy1.
The charity developed its Let’s Count program in 2009 to help close this educational divide. It has helped more than 122,000 children aged 3 to 5 years learn numeracy concepts through play.
The Smith Family has now expanded the program with the launch of a Facebook Messenger bot, developed by The Works, to help parents and families experiencing disadvantage support the mathematical learning of preschool-aged children.
The new Messenger bot provides parents with a series of prompts to use everyday objects and tasks to help children learn mathematical concepts such as time, shapes, sizes and weights.
Douglas Nicol, strategy partner at The Works, said that using Facebook to develop the tool was important, as 70% of the target audience was already highly engaged on the Messenger platform. “Poverty doesn’t discriminate and the ability to learn maths shouldn’t be based on your postcode. Using easily accessible technology that doesn’t need downloading, means parents can be supported to help their child get to grips with fundamentals of maths at a vital stage of their development. This was an innovative project to be involved with and we’re delighted with the result.”
Joanne Carter, project manager for Let’s Count from The Smith Family, added, “Our existing Let’s Count program has positively impacted on children, parents and educators since launching more than a decade ago. Now, with funding from BOQ and the Department of Education, Skills and Employment under the National Innovation and Science Agenda, we are expanding it so more parents and families have access to activities to help their young children learn maths concepts in a practical and fun way.”
The Smith Family and The Works consulted senior early years education academics to develop the Messenger bot. It was prototyped and tested with parents before launching.
1ARACA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority)(2013a) General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum.