Home numbers games improve kids' maths at school

Teaching your children to count or help weigh out ingredients when baking can give your child a head start in maths when they get to primary school, a new study found.

Whether it is sorting objects by size, colour, and shape, identifying numbers or other numeracy games, they all arm pre-school children with certain maths skills such as number processing and calculation skills.

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And the more parents engage in mathematical activities with their children, the higher their early numeracy performance will be.

Previous studies suggested gaining these early mathematical skills meant children were better able to tackle school-taught mathematics.

It was also known parents through play have an important role in their children's early mathematical development.

But until now, the link between specific numerical activities and certain maths skills was not well understood.

Learning by numbers

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Researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium assessed 128 kindergarten-age children for various symbolic and non-symbolic numerical tasks.

Parents were also asked parents to indicate the frequency of certain numeracy activities they did with their children at home.

They then looked for connections between this and the children's early numeracy skills.

PhD researcher Belde Mutaf Yıldız said: "Home numeracy has been shown to play an important role in children's mathematical performance.

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"However, findings are inconsistent as to which home numeracy activities are related to which mathematical skills.

"We found that the more parents engaged in activities such as identifying numerals, sorting objects by size, colour, or shape, or learning simple sums, the higher the children performed on skills like counting.

"These activities - and talking about money when shopping or measuring ingredients while cooking - were linked with a more accurate estimation of the position of a digit on an empty number line.

"In addition, engaging in activities such as card and board games was associated with better pictorial calculation skills."

Counting on parents

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She added the research supports and extends the idea that parent-child interaction plays a role in children's acquisition of early mathematical skills.

She said: "Increased public awareness on the role that parents can play in their children's development of mathematical skills just by doing more number related activities in a home environment would be hugely useful.

"Policymakers should think about providing educational tools for some home numeracy activities to help parents enhance their children's mathematical development."

She noted the study's findings are based on cross-sectional design and correlation analysis, meaning the results don't indicate any cause-and-effect relationship.

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For example, it could be that children who are already good at mathematics are the ones triggering 'home numeracy' instead of their parents.

Because research on home numeracy was in its infancy, the researchers said there was a need for more comprehensive investigations and observations of home numeracy activities.

There should also be further intervention studies to determine which specific activities best help children enhance their mathematical skills.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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