A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Counting Steps and Math Success

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — A book before naptime, story time at the local library; when it comes to building early language skills, most parents have a pretty good idea of what activities can help young children get a head start. But how can parents help preschoolers build math skills?

For three-year-old Ben, if you can snap it together or stack it, it’s fun. His mom knows it’s skill-building.

“Definitely important in terms of organization, thinking ahead, planning things,” detailed Ben’s mom, Anna Harding.

It’s also laying the foundation for math. Claudia Galindo, PhD, an education policy expert at the University of Maryland, studied 47 immigrant Latino moms whose children were enrolled in preschool through first grade. The education sociologist found the vast majority placed great value on math education and were already using cultural strengths to help their children with math.

Galindo told Ivanhoe, “Sometimes some of them felt it was difficult. They didn’t like it. In spite of this, they still saw math as something super important.”

Through workshops, Galindo helped these mothers capitalize on their strengths to teach math using daily activities at home. For example, when cooking, ask the child to count out and bring five ingredients, like potatoes, from the refrigerator.

Galindo added, “When you are setting the table, or you have a guest, ask how many people are coming for dinner. What is it that you will need?”

Researchers also found that moms in the study encouraged kids to watch educational media.

“We want to explore more about watching TV as a way to teach math—Dora, Sesame Street,” explained Galindo.

Researchers also suggested that parents allow kids to watch when they themselves are engaged in math-based activities in the home. That could be anything from matching the shape of Tupperware containers to lids, counting money or coins, or something as simple as counting out loud going up and down flights of steps.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Original research: Galindo, C., Sonnenschein, S., & Montoya-Ávila, A. (In press). Latina mothers’ engagement in children’s math learning in the early school years: Conceptions of math and socialization practices. Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

 

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