Early Number Sense Plays Role In Later Math Skills - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Early Number Sense Plays Role In Later Math Skills

WASHINGTON (AP) - We know a lot about how babies learn to talk, and youngsters learn to read. Now scientists are unraveling the earliest building blocks of math - and what children know about numbers as they begin first grade seems to play a big role in how well they do everyday calculations later on.
    
The findings have specialists considering steps that parents might take to spur math abilities, just like they do to try to raise a good reader.
    
This isn't only about trying to improve the nation's math scores and attract kids to become engineers. It's far more basic.
    
Consider: How rapidly can you calculate a tip? Do the fractions to double a recipe? Know how many quarters and dimes the cashier should hand back as your change?
    
About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lacks the math competence expected of a middle-schooler, meaning they have trouble with those ordinary tasks and aren't qualified for many of today's jobs.
    
"It's not just, can you do well in school? It's how well can you do in your life," says Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which is funding much of this research into math cognition. "We are in the midst of math all the time."
    
A new study shows trouble can start early.
    
University of Missouri researchers tested 180 seventh-graders. Those who lagged behind their peers in a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same kids who'd had the least number sense or fluency way back when they started first grade.
    
"The gap they started with, they don't close it," says Dr. David Geary, a cognitive psychologist who leads the study that is tracking children from kindergarten to high school in the Columbia, Mo., school system. "They're not catching up" to the kids who started ahead.
    
If first grade sounds pretty young to be predicting math ability, well, no one expects tots to be scribbling sums. But this number sense, or what Geary more precisely terms "number system knowledge," turns out to be a fundamental skill that students continually build on, much more than the simple ability to count.
    
What's involved? Understanding that numbers represent different quantities - that three dots is the same as the numeral "3'' or the word "three." Grasping magnitude - that 23 is bigger than 17.  Getting the concept that numbers can be broken into parts - that 5 is the same as 2 and 3, or 4 and 1. Showing on a number line that the difference between 10 and 12 is the same as the difference between 20 and 22.
    
Factors such as IQ and attention span didn't explain why some first-graders did better than others. Now Geary is studying if something that youngsters learn in preschool offers an advantage.
    
There's other evidence that math matters early in life. Numerous studies with young babies and a variety of animals show that a related ability - to estimate numbers without counting - is intuitive, sort of hard-wired in the brain, says Mann Koepke, of NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. That's the ability that lets you choose the shortest grocery check-out line at a glance, or that guides a bird to the bush with the most berries.
    
Number system knowledge is more sophisticated, and the Missouri study shows children who start elementary school without those concepts "seem to struggle enormously," says Mann Koepke, who wasn't part of that research.
    
While schools tend to focus on math problems around third grade, and math learning disabilities often are diagnosed by fifth grade, the new findings suggest "the need to intervene is much earlier than we ever used to think," she adds.
    
Exactly how to intervene still is being studied, sure to be a topic when NIH brings experts together this spring to assess what's known about math cognition.
    
But Geary sees a strong parallel with reading. Scientists have long known that preschoolers who know the names of letters and can better distinguish what sounds those letters make go on to read more easily. So parents today are advised to read to their children from birth, and many youngsters' books use rhyming to focus on sounds.
    
Likewise for math, "kids need to know number words" early on, he says.
    
NIH's Mann Koepke agrees, and offers some tips:
    
-Don't teach your toddler to count solely by reciting numbers. Attach numbers to a noun - "Here are five crayons: One crayon, two crayons..." or say "I need to buy two yogurts" as you pick them from the store shelf - so they'll absorb the quantity concept.
    
-Talk about distance: How many steps to your ball? The swing is farther away; it takes more steps.
    
-Describe shapes: The ellipse is round like a circle but flatter.
    
-As they grow, show children how math is part of daily life, as you make change, or measure ingredients, or decide how soon to leave for a destination 10 miles away,
    
"We should be talking to our children about magnitude, numbers, distance, shapes as soon as they're born," she contends. "More than likely, this is a positive influence on their brain function."
    
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Hundreds gather to remember student killed in Freeman shooting

    Hundreds gather to remember student killed in Freeman shooting

    Saturday, September 23 2017 9:44 PM EDT2017-09-24 01:44:28 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - On Saturday afternoon hundreds of people made their way to University High School to pay their respects and remember Sam Strahan, the 15-year-old student who was killed in a shooting at Freeman High School on September 13. The Spokane community came together to say their final goodbyes to Sam. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - On Saturday afternoon hundreds of people made their way to University High School to pay their respects and remember Sam Strahan, the 15-year-old student who was killed in a shooting at Freeman High School on September 13. The Spokane community came together to say their final goodbyes to Sam. 

    >>
  • North Korea: Trump insult ensures attack on US

    North Korea: Trump insult ensures attack on US

    Saturday, September 23 2017 3:57 PM EDT2017-09-23 19:57:52 GMT

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) - North Korea's foreign minister says U.S. President Donald Trump's insult calling leader Kim Jong Un "rocket man" makes "our rocket's visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more."

    >>

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) - North Korea's foreign minister says U.S. President Donald Trump's insult calling leader Kim Jong Un "rocket man" makes "our rocket's visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more."

    >>
  • Colorado hikers rescue dog stuck on mountain for 6 weeks

    Colorado hikers rescue dog stuck on mountain for 6 weeks

    Saturday, September 23 2017 7:56 PM EDT2017-09-23 23:56:12 GMT

    PARK COUNTY, Colo. - Mountain climbers came together on social media to help rescue a dog stuck atop a 14,177-foot mountain in Colorado. A group dedicated to climbing so-called 14ers (mountains with elevations of at least 14,000 feet) worked together to find a dog stranded on Mt. Bross.

    >>

    PARK COUNTY, Colo. - Mountain climbers came together on social media to help rescue a dog stuck atop a 14,177-foot mountain in Colorado. A group dedicated to climbing so-called 14ers (mountains with elevations of at least 14,000 feet) worked together to find a dog stranded on Mt. Bross.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • National NewsMore>>

  • D.C. child confuses pet store with power company, gets hamster anyway

    D.C. child confuses pet store with power company, gets hamster anyway

    Friday, September 22 2017 8:54 PM EDT2017-09-23 00:54:14 GMT
    @PepcoConnect twitter@PepcoConnect twitter

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a mailing mix up, a little girl in Washington, D.C. sent her letter asking pet supply store Petco asking for a hamster to Pepco, a D.C. utility company. Despite her minor mix up, her letter seemed to win over the power company.  Cynthia McCabe, Pepco's Communications Director, tweeted that customer services representatives decided to make Serenity's wish come true and gave her a hamster anyway. What a lucky 

    >>

    WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a mailing mix up, a little girl in Washington, D.C. sent her letter asking pet supply store Petco asking for a hamster to Pepco, a D.C. utility company. Despite her minor mix up, her letter seemed to win over the power company.  Cynthia McCabe, Pepco's Communications Director, tweeted that customer services representatives decided to make Serenity's wish come true and gave her a hamster anyway. What a lucky 

    >>
  • Colorado principal, assistant out after forced-splits video

    Colorado principal, assistant out after forced-splits video

    Friday, September 22 2017 7:57 PM EDT2017-09-22 23:57:52 GMT

    DENVER, Co. (AP) - A Colorado principal has retired and an athletic director has resigned after videos surfaced showing a high school cheerleading coach pushing cheerleaders down in splits. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg also on Friday released a report by a law firm that the district ordered after learning about the videos in August. Officials have said the school administrators saw at least one of the videos in June and 

    >>

    DENVER, Co. (AP) - A Colorado principal has retired and an athletic director has resigned after videos surfaced showing a high school cheerleading coach pushing cheerleaders down in splits. Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg also on Friday released a report by a law firm that the district ordered after learning about the videos in August. Officials have said the school administrators saw at least one of the videos in June and 

    >>
  • Strahan Family opens up memorial to the public

    Strahan Family opens up memorial to the public

    Friday, September 22 2017 6:28 PM EDT2017-09-22 22:28:02 GMT

    In a media release from the Strahan family, they said: "The Strahan family invites the public to join them in a memorial service celebrating the life of their son Sam Strahan. The service starts at 2:00 pm in the University High School Gym. The family is so appreciative of the outpouring of love from so many people throughout this community. We hope everyone can join them for this celebration. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers."

    >>

    In a media release from the Strahan family, they said: "The Strahan family invites the public to join them in a memorial service celebrating the life of their son Sam Strahan. The service starts at 2:00 pm in the University High School Gym. The family is so appreciative of the outpouring of love from so many people throughout this community. We hope everyone can join them for this celebration. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers."

    >>