Parents play an important role in their children’s early math learning, reports AboutKidsHealth

AboutKidsHealth - leading online source of children's health informationDo parents efforts in teaching kids early math pay off? Leading online provider of children’s health information, AboutKidsHealth, reports on the success of these early math teaching attempts.

Like many parents, Tracy Solomon spends quite a bit of time counting with her son Xavier.

“First, we learned to recognize numbers: speed signs on the road or pointing out people with numbers on their sports jerseys,” she recalls of his preschool days. Next came counting sets of objects. “I tried to count things he was into like cars and airplanes.”

Parents teaching elementary math to their kids before school is nothing new. What is different is we now know how incredibly important it is.

“A child’s level of math skills on their first day in kindergarten predicts their mathematical ability in grade five,” says Solomon, who, in addition to being Xavier’s mother, is a developmental psychologist and research scientist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). “The literature shows a kid’s incoming number knowledge is a forecast for how well they will be doing in math as much as seven years down the road.”

The good news is Solomon’s ‘number talk’ with Xavier during the preschool years works. Research shows parents can easily increase their child’s math knowledge before school begins and set them up for success in the future.

Number talk is any talk about numbers,” says Susan Levine, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, who studies the relation between how much number talk goes on in the house and how well kids do in math on the first day of school. “We told the parents to do what they ordinarily do with their kids, recorded it, and then went back to count how much number talk was going on. Parents who do this more have kids who score better in math.”

But Levine and her colleagues also found that some types of number talk proved to be better indicators for future understanding than others. “Kids can rattle off their numbers early, often from 1 to 10, and parents are surprised and impressed. But it’s a list with no meaning. When you say ‘give me 3 fish’ they give you a handful.” Gradually, kids figure out the meaning when objects counted are labeled by the parents. In essence, pointing to the objects while counting them and noting how many there are when the counting is done. “If you count 4 trucks, they are all 4 but it’s the fourth truck that carries the meaning.”

At the request of AboutKidsHealth, both Levine and Solomon have provided some suggestions on how to help preschoolers learn the five steps to counting, which can be found in the original article on early math at AboutKidsHealth.

Learning to count is just the first step. Solomon suggests keeping an eye on a child’s mathematical “end point”, which has to do with fractions, arguably the biggest math hurdle kids face.

“Don’t invest a lot of time trying to explain the concept. Just getting use to the idea is enough for a preschooler,” says Solomon, whose son Xavier is now seven years old and doing well in math using number lines, essentially, paper rulers that help teach the concepts behind fractions. “Once you have prepared them for the first day of school, your work is not done. Parents should be helping their child learn math all through their childhood. I just wish I’d done more of it when he was younger.”

Jonathan Link

For more information, please visit the AboutKidsHealth website, the Learning and Education section, or view the original article here:

AboutKidsHealth is the leading Canadian online source for trusted child health information, and has a scope and scale that is unique in the world. Developed by SickKids Learning Institute in collaboration with over 300 paediatric health specialists, the site provides parents, children, and community health care providers with evidence-based information about everyday parenting information, health and complex medical conditions, from what we can learn about math for kids to teenage drinking and driving. AboutKidsHealth adheres to rigorous quality standards for the creation and review of health information.

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For more information, please contact:
Sue Mackay, Communications
The Hospital for Sick Children
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