How to boost your child's math skills


WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Developmental psychologists have found that early math skills may be just as important as language skills in predicting later school success, and parents of preschoolers can help their kids get ahead.

Playing with blocks is a simple way to spend quality time and one of the ways parents can start building their preschoolers’ math skills.

Eric Dearing, PhD, a developmental and educational psychologist at Boston College, explained, “The ways that mothers were interacting with their three-year-olds predicted out to when children were four and a half years of age as well as when they’re in first grade, their math skills on math achievement tests.”

Developmental and educational psychologists at Boston College developed ways to measure how moms guided their child’s learning as they played with blocks and a toy cash register. They then applied those new assessments to a previous group of 140 moms and kids, who took part in ten minutes of videotaped playtime. The researchers found parents who helped their children understand quantities of small sets of items fared better on preschool and first grade math tests.

“When talking about sets of objects use gestures such as pointing to go through each object one at a time and identify the number associated with that object,” said Dearing.

The findings suggest that learning about set sizes helps with a crucial concept in early math: the last number stated when counting is the quantity.

Dearing said, “That seems rather intuitive to adults but it’s something that children have to in fact learn.”

Professor Dearing said parents should look for commonplace items to count out loud; fruit in a grocery bag, ingredients on the counter, blocks on the floor. This can help your child’s math skills stack up down the road.

Researchers said the children who did better on math tests in preschool also did better on addition and subtraction problems in first grade. The study was published in the society for research in Child Development.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.