Why Parents Need To Talk To Their Kids About Math

Why Parents Need To Talk To Their Kids About Math

ANNIE MURPHY PAULTHE BRILLIANT BLOG

JAN. 14, 2014, 9:32 AM 350

Many of us feel completely comfortable talking about letters, words and sentences with our children—reading to them at night, helping them decode their own books, noting messages on street signs and billboards.But speaking to them about numbers, fractions, and decimals? Not so much. And yet studies show that “number talk” at home is a key predictor of young children’s achievement in math once they get to school. Research provides evidence that gender is also part of the equation: Parents speak to their daughters about numbers far less than their sons.

study published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology drew on a collection of recordings of mothers talking to their toddlers, aged 20 to 27 months. Alicia Chang, a researcher at the University of Delaware, and two coauthors determined that mothers spoke to boys about number concepts twice as often as they spoke to girls. Children this age are rapidly building their vocabularies, Chang notes, and helping them become familiar with number words can promote their interest in math later on.

That was made clear in another study, published in Developmental Psychology in 2010, which also used recordings of parents talking to their children to gauge how often number words were used (the kids in this study were between the ages of 14 and 30 months). Psychologist Susan Levine of the University of Chicago and her coauthors found huge variation among the families studied: Some children were hearing their parents speak only about two dozen number words a week, while others were hearing such words about 1,800 times weekly.

The frequency of number talk in the children’s homes had a big impact on how well the youngsters understood basic mathematical concepts such as the cardinal number principle, which holds that the last number reached when counting a set of objects determines the size of the set (“One, two, three—three apples in the bowl!”). A subsequent study by Levine found that the kind of number talk that most strongly predicted later knowledge of numbers involved counting or labeling sets of objects that are right there in front of parent and child–especially large sets, containing between four and ten objects.

Though it may not come naturally at first, parents can develop the habit of talking about numbers as often as they talk about letters and words. Some simple ways to work numbers into the conversation:

• Note numbers on signs when you’re walking or driving with children: speed limits and exit numbers, building addresses, sale prices in store windows.
• Ask children to count how many toys they’re playing with, how many books they’ve pulled out to read, or how many pieces of food are on their plate.
• Use numbers when you refer to time, dates, and temperatures: how many hours and minutes until bedtime, how many weeks and days until a holiday, the high and low the weatherman predicts for that day.
• With older children, math can become a part of talking about sports, science, history, video games, or whatever else they’re interested in.

With practice, parents and children alike will find that math makes a very satisfying second language.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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