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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