Early numbers skill predicts math ability

Sept. 15, 2011 at 6:24 PM
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BALTIMORE, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Preschoolers' ability to estimate quantities prior to any formal math education can predict their mathematics ability in elementary school, a U.S. study says.

A study by the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore found children's ability to make numerical estimates in preschool was linked to their performance on mathematical more than two years later.

Humans have an intuitive number sense with which, for example, they can determine without counting which of two containers contains more objects, an ability that is present at birth and gradually improves throughout childhood, an institute release said Thursday.

"Children vary widely in both their numerical and non-numerical cognitive abilities at all ages," said Michele Mazzocco of the institute's Math Skills Development Project. "Based on earlier data showing a relationship between intuitive number skills and formal mathematics, we were interested to learn whether numerical skills measured prior to schooling predict the level of mathematics skills children demonstrate years later, in a formal educational setting."

The study examined 17 children who had taken part as preschoolers in a study of numerical abilities, and then tested them two years later on skills like counting, reading and writing numbers and simple arithmetic.

"It was striking to find evidence that basic number abilities at such a young age may play a role in formal math achievement," Mazzocco said.

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