Michigan State University study: Young children can understand large numbers

21 Dec

Mary Niederberger of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes in the article, Formula written for math success:

Mastery of fractions and early division is a predictor of students’ later success with algebra and other higher-level mathematics, based on a study done by a team of researchers led by a Carnegie Mellon University professor.
That means more effective teaching of the concepts is needed to improve math scores among U.S. high school students, which have remained stagnant for more than 30 years….
The study said a likely reason for U.S. students’ weakness in fractions and division could be linked to their teachers’ “lack of a firm conceptual understanding” of the concepts, citing several other studies in which many American teachers were unable to explain the reasons behind mathematical solutions, while most teachers in Japan and China were able to offer two or three explanations. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/formula-written-for-math-success-640962/#ixzz1ym9qos5j

Citation:

Early Predictors of High School Mathematics Achievement
1. Robert S. Siegler1,
2. Greg J. Duncan2,
3. Pamela E. Davis-Kean3,4,
4. Kathryn Duckworth5,
5. Amy Claessens6,
6. Mimi Engel7,
7. Maria Ines Susperreguy3,4 and
8. Meichu Chen4Abstract
Identifying the types of mathematics content knowledge that are most predictive of students’ long-term learning is essential for improving both theories of mathematical development and mathematics education. To identify these types of knowledge, we examined long-term predictors of high school students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement. Analyses of large, nationally representative, longitudinal data sets from the United States and the United Kingdom revealed that elementary school students’ knowledge of fractions and of division uniquely predicts those students’ knowledge of algebra and overall mathematics achievement in high school, 5 or 6 years later, even after statistically controlling for other types of mathematical knowledge, general intellectual ability, working memory, and family income and education. Implications of these findings for understanding and improving mathematics learning are discussed.
1.Published online before print June 14, 2012, doi: 10.1177/0956797612440101 Psychological Science June 14, 2012 0956797612440101

Math is important for a number of reasons.

Michigan State University’s Office of Supportive Services succinctly states why math is important:
Why is math important?

All four year Universities have a math requirement
Math improves your skills:
◦Critical Thinking Skills
◦Deductive Logic and Reasoning Skills
◦Problem Solving Skills
A good knowledge of math and statistics can expand your career options
Physical Sciences – Chemistry, Engineering, Physics
Life and Health Sciences – Biology, Psychology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Optometry
Social Sciences – Anthropology, Communications, Economics, Linquistics, Education, Geography
Technical Sciences – Computer Science, Networking, Software Development
Business and Commerce
Actuarial Sciences
Medicine
http://oss.msu.edu/academic-assistance/why-is-math-important

Young children have the ability to grasp large numbers.

Science Daily reported in the article, Kids Grasp Large Numbers Remarkably Young:

Children as young as 3 understand multi-digit numbers more than previously believed and may be ready for more direct math instruction when they enter school, according to research led by a Michigan State University education scholar.
The study, online in the journal Child Development and funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, has implications for U.S. students who continue losing ground internationally in mathematics performance.
“Contrary to the view that young children do not understand place value and multi-digit numbers, we found that they actually know quite a lot about it,” said Kelly Mix, MSU professor of educational psychology and co-author of the study. “They are more ready than we think when they enter kindergarten.”
Understanding place value is the gateway to higher math skills such as addition with carrying, and there is a strong tie between place value skills in early elementary grades and problem-solving ability later on.
“In short, children who fail to master place value face chronic low achievement in mathematics,” the study states.
In several experiments, Mix and Richard Prather and Linda Smith, both from Indiana University, tested children ages 3 to 7 on their ability to identify and compare two- and three-digit numbers.
In one task, for example, children were shown two quantities (such as 128 and 812) and asked to point out which was larger. “There was significant improvement in interpreting place value from age 3 to 7,” Mix said, “but it was remarkable that even the youngest children showed at least some understanding of multi-digit numbers.”
Mix said the surprising findings are likely due to the fact that children in today’s society are bombarded with multi-digit numbers — from phone numbers to street addresses to price tags.
Interestingly, children may be developing partial knowledge of the place value system at least partly from language, she explained. Children often hear multi-digit numbers named while also seeing them in print, such as when parents comment on a calendar, ask their child to push the elevator buttons or look for a room number in an office building.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131218112914.htm#.UrVMao_ZKxU.email

Citation:

Journal Reference:
1.Kelly S. Mix, Richard W. Prather, Linda B. Smith, Jerri DaSha Stockton. Young Children’s Interpretation of Multidigit Number Names: From Emerging Competence to Mastery. Child Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12197
Michigan State University (2013, December 18). Kids grasp large numbers remarkably young. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2013,

Jonathan Cohn reported about an unprecedented experiment which occurred in Romanian orphanages in the New Republic article, The Two Year Window. There are very few experiments involving humans because of ethical considerations.

Drury, Nelson, and their collaborators are still learning about the orphans. But one upshot of their work is already clear. Childhood adversity can damage the brain as surely as inhaling toxic substances or absorbing a blow to the head can. And after the age of two, much of that damage can be difficult to repair, even for children who go on to receive the nurturing they were denied in their early years. This is a revelation with profound implication—and not just for the Romanian orphans.
APPROXIMATELY SEVEN MILLION American infants, toddlers, and preschoolers get care from somebody other than a relative, whether through organized day care centers or more informal arrangements, according to the Census Bureau. And much of that care is not very good. One widely cited study of child care in four states, by researchers in Colorado, found that only 8 percent of infant care centers were of “good” or “excellent” quality, while 40 percent were “poor.” The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has found that three in four infant caregivers provide only minimal cognitive and language stimulation—and that more than half of young children in non-maternal care receive “only some” or “hardly any” positive caregiving. http://www.tnr.com/article/economy/magazine/97268/the-two-year-window?page=0,0&passthru=YzBlNDJmMmRkZTliNDgwZDY4MDhhYmIwMjYyYzhlMjg

Because the ranks of poor children are growing in the U.S., this study portends some grave challenges not only for particular children, but this society and this country. Adequate early learning opportunities and adequate early parenting is essential for proper development in children. https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/jonathan-cohns-the-two-year-window/

Related:

Study: Gender behavior differences lead to higher grades for girls
https://drwilda.com/2013/01/07/study-gender-behavior-differences-lead-to-higher-grades-for-girls/

Girls and math phobia https://drwilda.com/2012/01/20/girls-and-math-phobia/

University of Missouri study: Counting ability predicts future math ability of preschoolers
https://drwilda.com/2012/11/15/university-of-missouri-study-counting-ability-predicts-future-math-ability-of-preschoolers/

Is an individualized program more effective in math learning?
https://drwilda.com/2012/10/10/is-an-individualized-program-more-effective-in-math-learning/

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

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