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Friday, March 15th, 2013
Parents have been found to emphasize educational math activities at home far less than other academic pursuits like reading and paying attention, the result of which is American children lagging behind in math skills. A new study from PBS KIDS found that many parents do not know that research places math skills at kindergarten age as a greater predictor of academic achievement later in life than reading or other skills.
PBS’s “It All Adds Up” study was conducted in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and presented at the SXSWedu conference in Austin, Texas. Some of the major findings:
- Nearly 30% of parents reported anxiety about teaching their child math. Anxiety is even greater for moms (33%) and parents with an education level of high school or less (32%).
- 60% percent of parents of 5-8-year-olds practice math daily with their kids, whereas only half of parents of 2-4-year-olds do; Parents are also more likely to practice reading skills with their kids than they are to practice math.
- Parents place less emphasis on math, since they view other skills as “the greatest predictor of achievement later in life,” ranking reading and literacy (26%) and the ability to pay attention and work hard (47%) as most indicative versus math (14%).
Encouragingly, the survey found that 84 percent of parents believe it is important to support their child’s learning with home-based activities, and PBS KIDS is developing mobile apps and other resources for parents to use to bring more math into their home learning.
“The early years of life are most critical for learning both literacy and math; in fact, many children do not realize their full potential in mathematics because they are not getting consistent support from a young age,” said Lesli Rotenberg, General Manager, Children’s Programming, PBS, in a statement. “The good news is that there are simple things parents can do to support early math learning that can all add up to make a big difference. We know that parents trust PBS KIDS and look to us for ways to support their kids’ learning, and we are excited to offer parents and caregivers free resources they can use on their mobile phones or computers, and offline activity ideas that make anytime a learning time.”
Image: Child doing math, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, September 13th, 2012
Music lessons have long been a favorite among parents who want their children to have exposure to the arts, and numerous studies have shown benefits ranging from auditory skills to better performance in mathematics. But a new study adds a new benefit of early music lessons: advanced brain wave development that persists well beyond the end of the lessons themselves. The New York Times has more:
Researchers at Northwestern University recorded the auditory brainstem responses of college students — that is to say, their electrical brain waves — in response to complex sounds. The group of students who reported musical training in childhood had more robust responses — their brains were better able to pick out essential elements, like pitch, in the complex sounds when they were tested. And this was true even if the lessons had ended years ago.
Indeed, scientists are puzzling out the connections between musical training in childhood and language-based learning — for instance, reading. Learning to play an instrument may confer some unexpected benefits, recent studies suggest.
We aren’t talking here about the “Mozart effect,” the claim that listening to classical music can improve people’s performance on tests. Instead, these are studies of the effects of active engagement and discipline. This kind of musical training improves the brain’s ability to discern the components of sound — the pitch, the timing and the timbre.
“To learn to read, you need to have good working memory, the ability to disambiguate speech sounds, make sound-to-meaning connections,” said Professor Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University. “Each one of these things really seems to be strengthened with active engagement in playing a musical instrument.”
Image: Child playing a recorder, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Newborns and infants do their first learning by gazing into the eyes of their parents and caregivers. But when it’s time for them to learn to speak, they begin to “read lips,” a new study published by Florida Atlantic University researchers has found.
The Associated Press reports on how developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz performed their study:
He and doctoral student Amy Hansen-Tift tested nearly 180 babies, groups of them at ages 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 months.
How? They showed videos of a woman speaking in English or Spanish to babies of English speakers. A gadget mounted on a soft headband tracked where each baby was focusing his or her gaze and for how long.
They found a dramatic shift in attention: When the speaker used English, the 4-month-olds gazed mostly into her eyes. The 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth. The 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth.
At 12 months, attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes.
It makes sense that at 6 months, babies begin observing lip movement, Lewkowicz says, because that’s about the time babies’ brains gain the ability to control their attention rather than automatically look toward noise.
But what happened when these babies accustomed to English heard Spanish? The 12-month-olds studied the mouth longer, just like younger babies. They needed the extra information to decipher the unfamiliar sounds.
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That fits with research into bilingualism that shows babies’ brains fine-tune themselves to start distinguishing the sounds of their native language over other languages in the first year of life. That’s one reason it’s easier for babies to become bilingual than older children or adults.
Image: Happy baby girl, via Shutterstock
Monday, November 21st, 2011
Parents are putting down the tablets, smartphones, and other e-readers when it’s time to read to their kids, The New York Times is reporting. The article reveals that even parents who are loyal device readers themselves turn to old-fashioned “dead-tree” books at storytime:
This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.
Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.
“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,” said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Georgia, dead-tree books, stacked and strewn around the house, are the lone option.
“She reads only print books,” Ms. Van Every said, adding with a laugh that she works for a digital company, CBS Interactive. “Oh, the shame.”
Image: Parents reading to child, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
Picasso's Landscape of Juan-les-pin
A series of five experiments involving 9-month-olds in Switzerland revealed that the babies preferred the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso over the French impressionist Claude Monet. As MSNBC reports:
In one of the experiments, 24 infants (14 girls, 10 boys), were shown either six paintings by Picasso or the same number by Monet, and researchers measured their “look time” at each image. They then introduced two paintings side by side, one from each artist, Picasso’s “Landscape of Juan-les-pin” and Monet’s “Poppy Field Near Giverny.”
Babies who had been viewing the Monets preferred the Picasso — it was something new and different to their eyes. But the infants who had been shown the Picassos also looked longer at the new Picasso.
Another one of the experiments, which were all published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, presented babies with black-and-white versions of Picasso’s and Monet’s paintings. Again, the babies preferred Picasso’s work, surprising researchers who had theorized that the artist’s color palettes had influenced the preferences.
Researchers concluded that it’s the sharp contrasts of Picasso’s paintings, as compared to Monet’s softer, more fluid imagery, that stimulated the babies. Parents might look for bright-contrast toys to keep their own babies interested in things for longer.
(image via: http://www.painting-palace.com)
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