University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers

15 Nov

Jacob Vigdor wrote the interesting Education Next article, Solving America’s Math Problem:

American public schools have made a clear trade-off over the past few decades. With the twin goals of improving the math performance of the average student and promoting equality, it has made the curriculum more accessible. The drawback to exclusive use of this more accessible curriculum can be observed among the nation’s top-performing students, who are either less willing or less able than their predecessors or their high-achieving global peers to follow the career paths in math, science, and engineering that are the key to innovation and job creation. In the name of preparing more of the workforce to take those jobs, we have harmed the skills of those who might have created them. Although there is some evidence of a payoff from this sacrifice, in the form of marginally better performance among average students, some of the strategies used to help these students have in fact backfired…

Not all children are equally prepared to embark on a rigorous math curriculum on the first day of kindergarten, and there are no realistic policy alternatives to change this simple fact. Rather than wish differences among students away, a rational policy for the 21st century will respond to those variations, tailoring lessons to children’s needs. This strategy promises to provide the next generation of prospective scientists and engineers with the training they need to create jobs, and the next generation of workers with the skills they need to qualify for them. http://educationnext.org/solving-america%E2%80%99s-math-problem/#.UG25FCk_6rE.email

One way of looking at Vigdor’s conclusions is to ask whether high performance preschool programs and early intervention can affect student achievement?

Science Daily reports about a University of Missouri study about the effect of counting ability in preschoolers in the article, Preschoolers’ Counting Abilities Relate to Future Math Performance, Researcher Says:

Along with reciting the days of the week and the alphabet, adults often practice reciting numbers with young children. Now, new research from the University of Missouri suggests reciting numbers is not enough to prepare children for math success in elementary school. The research indicates that counting, which requires assigning numerical values to objects in chronological order, is more important for helping preschoolers acquire math skills.

“Reciting means saying the numbers from memory in chronological order, whereas counting involves understanding that each item in the set is counted once and that the last number stated is the amount for the entire set,” said Louis Manfra, an assistant professor in MU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “When children are just reciting, they’re basically repeating what seems like a memorized sentence. When they’re counting, they’re performing a more cognitive activity in which they’re associating a one-to-one correspondence with the object and the number to represent a quantity.”

Manfra analyzed data from more than 3,000 children from low-income households in order to determine if the children’s reciting and counting abilities in preschool affected their first-grade math scores. He found that students who could recite and count to 20 in preschool had the highest math scores in first grade; however, less than 10 percent of the children in the study could count and recite to 20.

“Counting gives children stronger foundations when they start school,” Manfra said. “The skills children have when they start kindergarten affect their trajectories through early elementary school; therefore, it’s important that children start with as many skills as possible.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121108142808.htm

Here is the press release from the University of Missouri:

News Bureau

University of Missouri

Preschoolers’ Counting Abilities Relate to Future Math Performance, MU Researcher Says

Counting, in addition to reciting, should be emphasized in early childhood education to establish foundation for future academic success

Nov. 08, 2012

Story Contact(s):
Jesslyn Chew, ChewJ@missouri.edu, (573) 882-8353

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Along with reciting the days of the week and the alphabet, adults often practice reciting numbers with young children. Now, new research from the University of Missouri suggests reciting numbers is not enough to prepare children for math success in elementary school. The research indicates that counting, which requires assigning numerical values to objects in chronological order, is more important for helping preschoolers acquire math skills.

Reciting means saying the numbers from memory in chronological order, whereas counting involves understanding that each item in the set is counted once and that the last number stated is the amount for the entire set,” said Louis Manfra, an assistant professor in MU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies. “When children are just reciting, they’re basically repeating what seems like a memorized sentence. When they’re counting, they’re performing a more cognitive activity in which they’re associating a one-to-one correspondence with the object and the number to represent a quantity.”

Manfra analyzed data from more than 3,000 children from low-income households in order to determine if the children’s reciting and counting abilities in preschool affected their first-grade math scores. He found that students who could recite and count to 20 in preschool had the highest math scores in first grade; however, less than 10 percent of the children in the study could count and recite to 20.

Counting gives children stronger foundations when they start school,” Manfra said. “The skills children have when they start kindergarten affect their trajectories through early elementary school; therefore, it’s important that children start with as many skills as possible.”

Previous research has shown that, in low-income families, parents often think children’s educations are the responsibility of teachers, while teachers expect parents to teach some essential skills at home, Manfra said.

These low-income children aren’t learning math skills anywhere because parents think the children are learning them at school, and teachers think they’re learning them at home,” Manfra said. “This is a problem because it gives parents and teachers the idea that it’s not their responsibility to educate the children, when it’s everyone’s responsibility. This is problematic because, when the children enter kindergarten and are at lower math levels, they don’t have the foundational skills needed to set them on paths for future success.”

Parents and teachers should integrate counting into all aspects of children’s daily activities so they can master the skill, Manfra said.

You can learn anything anywhere, and this is very true for counting,” Manfra said. “When adults read books with children, they can count the ducks on the page. They might count the leaves that fall to the ground outside or the number of carrots at lunchtime.”

The Department of Human Development and Family Studies is part of the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. The study, “Associations between Counting Ability in Preschool and Mathematic Performance in First Grade among a Sample of Ethnically Diverse, Low-Income Children,” will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Research in Childhood Education.

There will continue to be battles between those who favor a more traditional education and those who are open to the latest education fad. These battles will be fought out in school board meetings, PTSAs, and the courts.

There is one way to, as Susan Powder says, “Stop the Insanity.” Genuine school choice allows parents or guardians to select the best educational setting for their child. Many policy wonks would like to believe that only one type of family seeks genuine school choice, the right wing wacko who makes regular visits on the “tea party” circuit. That is not true. Many parents favor a back-to-the basics traditional approach to education.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work in education

Related:

Study: Early mastery of fractions is a predictor of math success                                                                                  https://drwilda.com/tag/formula-written-for-math-success/

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8 Responses to “University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers”

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