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Let’s Talk About Math

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — For many parents, math brings up memories of flash cards and worksheets. How much of an impact does a mom’s math talk have on her children’s understanding of math concepts?

Linus and his older brother Jonah love playing store. Mom, Melissa, also a social scientist, is happy the boys are having fun and at the same time learning basic math.

“I don’t want them to see math as a drill and a burden and boring,” Melissa told Ivanhoe.

Developmental psychologists at the University of Pittsburgh wanted to see what happened when moms talked about numbers with their kids. The researchers studied 44 five- and six-year-olds and their moms. The kid-and-mom pairs played for 10 minutes while researchers videotaped the interaction.

“What we found when we went back and looked at parents using more number words was those kids tended to have higher math scores, too,” detailed Leanne Elliott, MS, a developmental psychologist and PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers also said that parents’ use of numbers higher than 10 was significantly related to young children’s math abilities, suggesting that kids should be exposed to concepts that are more advanced.

Elliott said, “Talking about math, incorporating it into day-to-day interactions, can be really helpful.”

Elliott said that parents can count the number of cars that pass by while waiting for the bus. Count the items in the grocery cart at the store. While driving, look for numbers on signs like the posted speed limit.

Melissa said, “Driving from one place to another, we talk about what time it is, when we have to get there, how long it might take us, how far it is.”

Math talk like that might help kids start school with skills that help them stack up.

Leanne Elliott also suggests that parents play board games that require back and forth movements and card games, like Uno, that help children recognize numbers.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Bob Walko, Editor; Roque Correa,  Videographer.

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

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