Recent research shows that future math ability is boosted by parents playing math games with young children.
Young children whose mothers support them during math play — such as helping them label how many items are in a set — tend to have better math achievement at ages four and a half and five years, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Boston College.
Their findings are published in the journal Child Development. the research shows that early exposure to math has equal importance as early literacy for later school success. However, there has been little research that directly examines the role of parental support in early math play.
For the study, the researchers examined how mothers supported and guided their three year olds as they played with a toy cash register and blocks.
They applied these assessments to previously videotaped free play interactions between 140 mothers and children who were a part of the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
Researchers found that mothers who supported their children’s math skills by labeling quantities of small sets had children who did better on math tests in preschool and on later addition and subtraction problems.
“Many young children can count from one to 10 without understanding the meaning of the numbers they’re counting,” said study leader Beth Casey, professor emeritus of applied developmental and educational psychology at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.
“What may be particularly important at around age three is for parents to present their children with small groups of one, two, or three objects, and tell them how many objects there are — for example, by saying at the grocery store, ‘See, there are two apples in our bag.’”