Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
A set of skills involved in recognizing and processing numbers can predict by the first grade how well a child will perform in math in their later school years, ongoing math cognition research at the National Institutes of Health is discovering. More from NBC News:
About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lacks the math competence expected of a middle-schooler, meaning they have trouble with those ordinary tasks and aren’t qualified for many of today’s jobs.
“It’s not just, can you do well in school? It’s how well can you do in your life,” says Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which is funding much of this research into math cognition. “We are in the midst of math all the time.”
A new study shows trouble can start early.
University of Missouri researchers tested 180 seventh-graders. Those who lagged behind their peers in a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same kids who’d had the least number sense or fluency way back when they started first grade.
“The gap they started with, they don’t close it,” says Dr. David Geary, a cognitive psychologist who leads the study that is tracking children from kindergarten to high school in the Columbia, Mo., school system. “They’re not catching up” to the kids who started ahead.
If first grade sounds pretty young to be predicting math ability, well, no one expects tots to be scribbling sums. But this number sense, or what Geary more precisely terms “number system knowledge,” turns out to be a fundamental skill that students continually build on, much more than the simple ability to count.
What’s involved? Understanding that numbers represent different quantities — that three dots is the same as the numeral “3″ or the word “three.” Grasping magnitude — that 23 is bigger than 17. Getting the concept that numbers can be broken into parts — that 5 is the same as 2 and 3, or 4 and 1. Showing on a number line that the difference between 10 and 12 is the same as the difference between 20 and 22.
Factors such as IQ and attention span didn’t explain why some first-graders did better than others. Now Geary is studying if something that youngsters learn in preschool offers an advantage.
Image: Young schoolchild doing math, via Shutterstock
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
Monday, February 11th, 2013
Boys who act out or otherwise misbehave in their school classrooms may actually be doing themselves an academic disservice, a new study published in The Journal of Human Resources suggests. The study found that in many classrooms, boys earned lower grades than their standardized test scores would have predicted, because their teachers hold their behavior against them. More from NBC News:
According to the study, disruptive behavior may indeed be working against the wiggle worms of the world.
[Study co-author Jessica] Van Parys and co-researchers analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics involving about 6,000 mostly white, black and Hispanic students from around the country who were followed from kindergarten through fifth grade, starting in the 1998-1999 school year.
Students were given tests in reading, math and science, while teachers also rated students’ abilities in all three areas, as well as rated them on classroom behaviors. The study found that when assessing kids’ academic abilities, the teachers factored in their classroom behaviors.
This ultimately helped the girls and hurt boys. The girls scored about 15 percent higher in behavior (also called ”non-cognitive skills”), which meant they earned better grades than boys, even though they didn’t score as high on the tests.
“Our point is that teachers take into account other factors, either consciously or unconsciously, when they rate the child’s ability on all kinds of subject areas,” Van Parys said. “It’s hard for teachers to be completely objective when they’re giving an assessment.”
Image: Boy in school, via Shutterstock
Categories: Education, Must Read, New Research | Tags: boys, child behavior, Education, gender, grades, math, reading, school, science
Monday, July 30th, 2012
Approaching math problems impulsively–by guessing at answers from memory rather than carefully calculating their responses–may give boys an edge over girls in the subject. LiveScience.com reports on the study, which concludes that parents of boys and girls alike can help their children by encouraging them to “shout out the answers” in math class:
The University of Missouri study followed 300 students from first grade to sixth grade. During those first two years, the boys called out more answers in class than the girls but also had more wrong answers. Girls were more often right, but answered fewer questions and responded more slowly, according to the university. By sixth grade, the boys were still answering more problems than the girls and were also getting more correct.
Several recent studies have argued that gender differences in math performance have more to do with culture than aptitude. Research published last year found that certain countries — generally ones with more gender equality, better teachers and fewer students living in poverty — showed a smaller gap between males and females in math and some had no gap at all.
Other research has pointed to inherent gender biases in the classroom. One such study found that high school math teachers tended to rate girls’ math abilities lower than those of male students, even when the girls’ grades and test scores were comparable to boys.
Gender issues aside, the researchers of the Missouri study — which was published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology — had some advice for parents based on the findings. “Parents can give their children an advantage by making them comfortable with numbers and basic math before they start grade school, so that the children will have fewer trepidations about calling out answers,” David Geary, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.
Image: Elementary school children, via Shutterstock.