A review of domestic and foreign research has shown a correlation between poverty and weak socio-economic family situation and educational success of children. Poverty is an occurrence with many stress factors, which have a negative effect on the whole family and educational success of children. These factors include a wide spectrum of areas of child's development, such as math, language, graphomotorics, educational strategies etc.
For efficient early math learning in school the pupil must posses’ good informal mathematical knowledge, a number sense, visuospatial and language capabilities, cognitive and metacognitive capabilities and a positive attitude towards math.
In their findings many authors stress that children from less stimulating environments, caused by poverty, have less well developed basic abilities, necessary for efficient gaining of formal math knowledge in class. Parents, who are constantly and for a longer period of time under stress because of burdens of poverty (infrequent income, job search, worse general living conditions), have less strength for quality interaction with a child, which would encourage his development. At the same time they cannot provide a child with encouraging material conditions. Many parents also develop poor self-image and a sense of helplessness. They generally have a lower degree of education and the expectations related to child's education are lower than with parents with higher education and guaranteed regular income as well.
The main purpose of our study was to develop a compensation program for a pupil, who lives in a less encouraging environment because of poverty influence and has mathematical difficulties, namely on the fifth level of a five-level hierarchy model for dealing with pupils with special needs (Magajna et al., 2008) and following a four-level system approach (Kavkler, 2008 b). Peers, a teacher, a special pedagogue, a volunteer worker and parents have participated in the program. Using a comprehensive systematic approach to work the pupil was provided with quality inclusive upbringing and education with all available means: from constant professional, peer to parental help.
The pupil was 8 years and 2 months old and attending the 2nd grade when the treatment started. When the treatment stopped he was 9 years and 1 month old and attending the 3rd grade.
We have used the following measuring instruments when preparing a comprehensive evaluation of the pupil's functioning and the final assessment: A collection of instruments for evaluating capabilities and special needs (Galeša, 2003), Mathematics Screening 1 (Adler, 2001), Numbers knowledge test (Griffin, 2002), Sugarman's test for assessing arithmetic strategies (Shorpshire Mathematics Centre, 1996), Tests for checking arithmetic knowledge (Kavkler et al., 1996), Semantic test (Vladisavljević, 1983), tests for assessing a child's language capabilities related with math, composed especially for this research (the contents were outlined using the publication L. Marjanovič Umek (1990)), and mathematical text assignments. We have followed the progress of the child's mathematical knowledge using concrete training goals. Qualitative and quantitative data processing has been made. The results of the collection of instruments and tests were presented in graphs and tables, the goals were qualitatively analysed, evaluated and descriptively presented.
It is evident from the results of the initial diagnostic assessment that the pupil had poorly developed mathematical knowledge (declarative and conceptual also procedural and problem knowledge), poorly developed oral-linguistic, visuospatial and graphomotoric capabilities. A comparison between the initial and final assessment has shown that the pupil has improved in all areas of mathematical knowledge, since he has for the most part reached all the assessed goals. He also improved in the areas of mathematical oral-linguistic capabilities (he scored all points in the final evaluation) and also visuospatial and graphomotoric capabilities.
The results of the research show the effectiveness of the program when dealing with overcoming and compensation of deficiencies, which are a result of negative effects of poverty and related low socio-economic status family situation on the child's early development.
Based on the findings from the empirical research the teachers and school staff can identify the deficiencies with this group of pupils much faster. In cooperation with the parents, outside institutions (e.g. volunteer work), active integration of kids with special needs and their peers they can form appropriate help measures to reduce, eliminate or prevent the aforementioned problems. With this they enable better educational achievements and break the vicious circle of poverty.
Our research is a model to prepare, execute and evaluate the intervention program to alleviate the consequences of a less stimulating environment in early childhood and develop mathematical knowledge and mathematical language capabilities.
We believe that the findings from our research present an important contribution to science and practice. The designed and tested intervention program is a good model for early treatment for children from less stimulating environment because of poverty. With it we want to aid in developing quality inclusive education and warn teachers and school professionals of the poverty issues and its influence on early child development.