Jessica Mercer Young is dedicated to providing equitable learning opportunities for all children, with a particular focus on vulnerable and at-risk populations. An expert in child development, her research focuses on the intersection of developmental science and early childhood education, investigating the ways in which families, teachers, and schools promote children’s mastery motivation—persistence at challenging tasks, mathematics learning, and problem-solving skills. Her work provides new insights into early childhood learning and teaching, with an emphasis on the link between teachers’ mathematics anxiety and beliefs about learning to child outcomes.
Currently, Young and co-Principal Investigator (PI) Kristen Reed are leading a National Science Foundation-funded study, Games for Young Mathematicians, that is examining the potential of a game-based professional development intervention to promote children’s mastery motivation and mathematics learning. The intervention facilitates teachers’ understanding of children’s mathematics development using developmentally appropriate, challenging, mathematics games and activities, and gives them effective strategies, using mathematics games and activities, to support children’s growth mindset and persistence.
Young is also co-PI, with Reed and Heidi Rosenberg, of two projects funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation, Family Engagement in Early Mathematics and the Teacher Practices Observation Study. These projects examine how a professional development model can support teachers in engaging families in early mathematics activities through at-home games and mathematics mini-books that align with the mathematics games teachers are using in the classroom.
She is also an expert on the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO PreK) toolkit; leading Train-the-trainer seminars and professional development institutes across the country.
Young has coauthored publications on mastery motivation, early childhood mathematics education and teacher professional development, including “Mother-child Interaction as a Predictor of Mastery Motivation,” “Play Games, Learn Math! Explore Numbers and Counting with Dot Card and Finger Games,” “Mastery Motivation: Persistence and Problem Solving in Preschool,” and “ Use of a Storytelling Context to Improve Girls' and Boys' Geometry Skills in Kindergarten” and “Building a Classroom Community that Supports English Learners in Preschool”. In addition, Young and her colleagues have created resources for teachers and parents that are available on the Young Mathematicians website.
Before joining EDC, Young taught preschool. She received a BA in psychology from Boston College, an EdM in human development and psychology from Harvard University, and a PhD in applied developmental and educational psychology from Boston College.