According to an article in U.S. News and World Report, there is new research to suggest that we should be talking numbers with kids when they are born,  just as we do for reading.

“We should be talking to our children about magnitude, numbers, distance, shapes as soon as they’re born,” says Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which is funding much of this research into math cognition.

Kids don’t catch up when they start with a gap in math understanding as early as the first grade. The research of 180 seventh graders revealed that those who lagged in the latter grade, also had the same issues in the 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.

The math number sense being referred to in the U.S. News and World Report article is really more of a fundamental number systems knowledge rather than the ability to add and subtract in the first grade. For example, if you can “estimate” in early life, it helps you later on – perhaps by choosing a shorter line at the checkout stand or making decisions more quickly. This number systems sense breaks down into practical decision making at the end of the day – quickly surveying a situation and making a good choice.

Tips for better understanding of numbers and math when your kids are young are provided by NIH’s Koepke.

“Don’t teach your toddler to count solely by reciting numbers. Attach numbers to a noun — “Here are five crayons: One crayon, two crayons…” or say “I need to buy two yogurts” as you pick them from the store shelf — so they’ll absorb the quantity concept.

—Talk about distance: How many steps to your ball? The swing is farther away; it takes more steps.”

Read more in the US News and World Report article

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