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Preschoolers’ Grasp of Numbers Predicts Math Performance in School Years

November 27, 2011 Comments off

Preschoolers’ Grasp of Numbers Predicts Math Performance in School Years
Source: Kennedy Krieger Institute

A new study published today in the journal PLoS ONE reports that the precision with which preschoolers estimate quantities, prior to any formal education in mathematics, predicts their mathematics ability in elementary school, according to research from the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

Humans have an intuitive sense of number that allows them, for example, to readily identify which of two containers has more objects without counting. This ability is present at birth, and gradually improves throughout childhood. Although it’s easier to compare quantities if the amounts differ greatly (such as 30 versus 15 objects), greater precision is needed when comparing items that are much closer in number. When this ability is measured during the school age years, it correlates with mathematics achievement. However, it has been unclear until now whether this intuitive ability actually serves as a foundation for school-age math abilities.

Results of the new study show that children’s ability to make numerical estimates in preschool predicted their performance on mathematical tests taken in elementary school, more than two years later. The relationship appeared to be specific to math ability, because preschool number skills did not predict other abilities, such as expressive vocabulary or the ability to quickly name objects like letters or numbers.

+ Preschoolers’ Precision of the Approximate Number System Predicts Later School Mathematics Performance (PLoS ONE)

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