Research Associate – Math Games Scale-up- J-PAL South Asia

J-PAL South Asia
  • India
Start Date (Earliest):
Length of Commitment:
One year

Project: Math Games Scale-Up Project

Base Location: Pune, Maharashtra/ Delhi, India

Language requirement: Marathi preferred (knowledge of Hindi, Punjabi, or Telugu would be advantageous)

Principal Investigators: Esther Duflo, Elizabeth Spelke, Harini Kannan

Job Description:

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) J-PAL was established in 2003 as a research center at the Economics Department at MIT. Since then, it has grown into a global network of researchers who use randomized evaluations to answer critical policy questions in the fight against poverty. J-PAL is propelled by a team dedicated to research, policy, training, and other vital work, supporting J-PAL's mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence.

J-PAL South Asia, the regional office which is based at the Institute for Financial Management and Research (IFMR) in India, analyses and disseminates research results and builds partnerships with policymakers to ensure that policy is driven by evidence, and that programs proven effective are scaled up. We have a growing number of partnerships in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. For more information on J-PAL SA, please see

The Policy team at J-PAL South Asia (J-PAL SA) disseminates findings of J-PAL’s research; develops relationships with governments, civil society, and academic stakeholders; catalyzes scale-ups and replications of effective projects; and assists in conceptualizing new research projects. The team works closely with the global J-PAL office based at MIT to align the regional strategy with broader organizational objectives.

Project Description:

Many poor children around the world underperform in school math. In India, 97% of children now go to school, but less than half of 5th-grade children can perform arithmetic beyond 2nd-grade level (ASER Centre 2015). In contrast, research in cognitive science reveals that infants and preschool children in different societies, with or without formal education, have an interest in and a shared, intuitive understanding of numbers and geometry (e.g. Dehaene et al. 2006; Jara-Ettinger et al. 2017; Newcombe and Huttenlocher 2003; Spelke 2011). Moreover, poor kindergarten children can play math games that draw on this understanding as well as more advantaged children do, both in the U.S. (Gilmore, McCarthy, and Spelke 2007, 2010) and India (Dillon et al. 2017).

Math Games is an innovative math curriculum that aims to develop children's intuitive concepts of number and geometry, informed by decades of cognitive development research, and rigorously evaluated through three randomized evaluations in Delhi. We find that children exposed to these games exhibited gains innate as school math skills compared to those who were not exposed to the games.

J-PAL SA is currently working with the Government of Maharashtra, Pratham, and select state and district governments to scale the Math Games programs across Kindergarten and Grade 1 classrooms.

This is an excellent opportunity to obtain a strong understanding of how children learn mathematics, the economic and policy issues relating to early childhood education, and what it takes to scale evidence-based programs.

Roles and Responsibilities:

The Research Associate will work closely with PIs and the field team to undertake the following tasks.

  1. Overseeing implementation of the pilot in accordance with the research design, in association with our partner organization.
  2. Work closely with PIs to develop child assessments, process monitoring tools, and other data collection instruments.
  3. Design and lead data collection activities with support from the field team.
  4. Data cleaning and management
    1. Review and vet project datasets and maintain an efficient data documentation system.
    2. Work with other members of the team to reconcile any gaps or errors in the data.
  5. Data analysis and synthesis
    1. Assist in analysis of qualitative and quantitative data collected during the project’s implementation.
    2. Liaise with members of the project team by sending them statistics as and when required.
    3. Generate aggregated views of the data for various stakeholders – the implementation partners, Principal Investigators and donors.
    4. Assist in documenting data collection efforts, including any issues and key decisions taken for improvements.
  6. Working closely with the Policy team to develop memos, presentations and other communication materials for use in advocacy, government meetings etc.
  7. Maintain compliance with all J-PAL protocols and policies.
  8. Assist in preparation of documents and presentations for donor reporting as well policy memos as dissemination activities.
  9. Maintain general project documentation.
  10. Support team develop the Math Games curriculum to be piloted and scaled.
  11. Assist in setting up demonstration pilots in conjunction with NGO or government partners.

Desired Qualifications and Experience:

  • Bachelor's/Master's degree in economics, education, applied psychology, cognitive science, or related fields.
  • Experience 0-2 years, experience working in cognitive science/education sector preferred.
  • Experience working in schools is a plus
  • Excellent management/organizational skills and ability to solve unexpected problems.
  • Strong quantitative and qualitative research skills.
  • Working knowledge of Stata.
  • Familiarity with RCTs.
  • Flexible, self-motivating, independent, and manages multiple tasks efficiently.
  • Ability to deal with unstructured and changing environments.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Fluency and excellent communication skills in English and Marathi (preferred, not required). Knowledge of Hindi, Punjabi, or Telugu would also be advantageous.

Note on Work Authorizations:

Candidates must have work authorization to work in India.

How to Apply

If you are interested in this position, please click on the apply button on the JD here; the first-time users will be asked to sign up and upload their CV, cover letter, and academic transcripts (optional).

For any queries, please write to [email protected]