Child Development 101 – Where Math Fits Into the Equation
Education experts have long praised the value of children learning to read early in order to build a foundation of school success, but how important is developing early math skills?
With April’s Mathematics Awareness Month upon us, it’s a good time to look at what the research shows.
Research reveals that a firm understanding of early math concepts plays a significant role in long-term academic success.
“Young children learn through play, and there are many ways of teaching them math concepts that they and their parents will enjoy.” - Greg Duncan
“The consensus among the experts, and certainly based on the research we’ve done at UCI, is that young children benefit long-term from developing early proficiency in basic numerical concepts and geometry concepts, such as spatial thinking and measurement,” said University of California Irvine’s Distinguished Professor of Education Greg Duncan, a leading scholar in the field of early childhood education.
Many earlier, recent, and in-progress studies suggest that early exposure to math benefits a child’s development:
- A 2007 study showed that preschool mathematics programs can help young children develop a foundation of mathematics knowledge, especially those at risk for later school failure.
- A 2011 research initiative involving more than 16,000 children evaluated the measures believed to influence young children’s future academic success – such as reading and math competency, attention skills, and social skills/behavior – and found that early math skills proved to be the most consistently predictive of success.
- The same 2011 study showed that early elementary math knowledge was the primary predictor affecting the likelihood that a student would graduate from high school and then attend college.
- A 2013 study showed that first-grade math skills set a foundation for later math success and that, by contrast, children who did not acquire a basic math skill in first grade scored far behind their peers by seventh grade when tested on the mathematical abilities needed to function in adult life.
- In-progress research in New York City’s public schools, collecting evidence on how to improve outcomes for impoverished kids, is already pointing to pre-Kindergarten math as a critical success factor.
But how do you motivate children mathematically at such an early age?
“Young children learn through play, and there are many ways of teaching them math concepts that they and their parents will enjoy,” Duncan said.
If making math fun and understandable to youngsters sounds daunting, explore these helpful resources for parents and teachers for ideas on how to introduce math to children ages 5 and under:
“It is exciting to see that the research on this subject is affecting preschool and elementary school education,” Duncan added. “Our kids need to develop a strong foundation in both literacy and math.”
Related Topics: Ready for School
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