Math At Home Equals A Boost In More Than Just Math Skills

Preschool children who engage in math activities at home with their parents not only improve their math skills, but also their general vocabulary, according to research from Purdue University.

“Exposure to basic numbers and math concepts at home were predictive, even more so than storybook reading or other literacy-rich interactions, of improving preschool children’s general vocabulary,” said Amy Napoli, a doctoral student in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies who led the study. “And one of the reasons we think this could be is the dialogue that happens when parents are teaching their children about math and asking questions about values and comparisons, which helps these young children improve their oral language skills.”

The findings are published online in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.

“It’s never too early to talk about numbers and quantities. One of the first words young children learn is ‘more,'” said David Purpura, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and senior author of the study.

There are a number of ways parents can encourage math learning at home, such as talking about counting, connecting numbers to quantities and comparing values – more and less. It also helps to focus on counting as purposeful, such as “there are three cookies for a snack” rather than “there are cookies for a snack.”

“This focus on math typically isn’t happening at home, but this shows that when parents do include math concepts it can make a difference,” said Napoli, who is working on tools to help parents improve math-related instruction at home. “When working with families, there is a math-related anxiety aspect and that is probably why more parents focus on literacy than on math. But, if you can count, then you can teach something to your child.”

This study evaluated 116 preschool children, ages 3-5. The researchers assessed the children’s math and language skills in the fall and spring of the preschool year and examined how what their parents reported about math and literacy activities at home predicted children’s improvement over time. Napoli and Purpura do caution that these findings are only correlational and the future experimental work is needed to evaluate the causal nature of these findings. This research is ongoing work supported by Purdue’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies.

4 Comments on "Math At Home Equals A Boost In More Than Just Math Skills"

  1. The Oracle of Tucson | November 13, 2017 at 7:00 am | Reply

    Sadly five out of four people don’t understand basic math.

    The Oracle

  2. What a unique idea parents teaching their kids, hope this catches on.

  3. Listen to a Mom | November 13, 2017 at 10:08 am | Reply

    Parents are their kids first and most important teacher. It concerns me how much technology has entered our lives to make things “easier.” More and more, it will take a concerted effort for parents to say no to their own ipones and encourage their kids to put them down. The art of conversation is going by way of the dinosaurs. Look anywhere–at a restaurant, passengers in cars, waiting in lines. Many are head down on their devices instead of speaking with the people closest to them!

    Big Tech/Big Data are heavily marketing devices for babies in the Fisher Price aisle of the toy store. I read a review for one of these “baby app toys.” It was heart-breaking. A Mom said she loved the FP toy because it allowed her husband and her to have uninterrupted time to watch the TV program they wanted while their 9 month old baby played with the tech toy. What a lost opportunity for all except Fisher Price’s profit center.

    It is a simple straightforward idea that parents should talk to their children; yet, how many grocery carts have you passed by where a baby/toddler is head down playing with an iphone? Lots of missed opportunities to talk about apples and where they grow, how many you put in the grocery bag.

    I hope parents of young children will wake up quickly to the fact that technology doesn’t make your kid smarter—parents speaking, asking questions to their kids is what makes the difference in learning for a child.

    Let’s not push this responsibility off to a pre-K program, “rigorous” standards, or HeadStart–it’s a parent’s job to bring up their young kiddos every minute they are with them. Sadly, if we parents don’t do our jobs, society starts the blame game with the child’s school teachers and test scores. Many kids are years behind before they step into a school. How can teachers really be blamed for this?

    Parents who already raised their kids must find ways to impress upon the parents with young children today that they have the most important role in their kids lives.

    Question is…how to teach the young parents to put down their own devices to speak with their kids…all day about everything. The big stuff and the little stuff. It all matters to a young growing mind.

  4. OK, listen up (Again)! Get yer kids outta “public school”.

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