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Math Skills Benefits

Early Childhood Math Skills Have Long-Lasting Benefits
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH

Want to help your little genius to become a whiz at math? Psychologists at the University of Missouri* recently identified some important first grade math skills that teachers and parents should focus on to improve math proficiency later in life.

Previous research suggests that when beginning first graders understand a few concepts, including numbers, the quantities those numbers represent, and very simple arithmetic, they’ll have far greater ease and success learning mathematics through the end of fifth grade, and likely for the rest of their lives.

Most moms and dads know that math is critical for success in many careers, and kids in the United States don’t always learn math as well as they should. Once kids fall behind in math, it can be very challenging to help them get back on track, so it’s especially important to get off to a good start.

Researchers at the University of Missouri found that an understanding of numbers and the concept of quantity is a necessary foundation for success. So teaching your preschoolers how to count and playing guessing games like “How many blocks do I have in my hand?” can be an excellent way to prepare children for math success.

The researchers have been monitoring a group of 177 elementary students from 12 different schools since kindergarten. In their studies of these children, they found that first graders who understood the number line and how to place numbers on the line showed faster progress in math skills over the next five years than first graders who didn’t have a basic understanding of the number line.

If you make counting games short, simple and fun, preschoolers and elementary students will not only enjoy them, they’ll learn from them, and they’ll be better able to learn more complex math skills later on. Spending just five or ten minutes playing an age-appropriate math game with your child a couple of times a week will help your little genius realize her full potential—in school and throughout life.

*The results of the study, “Cognitive Predictors of Achievement Growth in Mathematics: A Five Year Longitudinal Study,” will be published in the journal Developm

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