Even during my hiatus, I was keeping some notes for this blog. A couple had to do with young children and mathematics.

Is it surprising that “Mothers Talk Less to Young Daughters About Math”? Easy for me to ask — I have only sons.

Apparently it’s important, though: Math Matters, Even for Little Kids. The article makes a lot of sense to me (not surprising, given that one of the authors is Alan Schoenfeld). For example, there’s this:

The most commonly encountered activities in preschool are among the least effective for teaching children math. Learning to count by rote teaches children number words and their order, but it does not teach them number sense, any more than singing the letters L-M-N-O-P in the alphabet song teaches phonemic awareness. Knowing that “four” follows “three” is of minimal value if a child doesn’t know what “four” means. Paper-and-pencil tasks (e.g., drawing a line from the numeral 4 to a picture of four apples; coloring in an outline of the numeral 4) are fine for practice, but they don’t teach children a sense of number.

But do read the whole piece, lest you think it’s suggesting boring rote activities for four-year-olds. Just as I was looking for the word “play,” there it was.

## About Priscilla Bremser

Professor of Mathematics
Middlebury College

These are both great pieces. The second one, by Stipek, Shoenfeld, and Gomby, really is important. One has to wonder why early math skills are a better predictor of later reading skills than early reading is. Of course there may be some lurking variable, the the fact that the correlation is stronger between early math and later reading and early reading and later reading seems counter-intuitive. Even allowing for correlation not assuring causation, it can be persuasively argued that trying to improve early math skills is worth investing in. After all, suppose that this doesn’t result in better reading later; one can still bask in having strengthened the students’ math skills and readiness, in addition to having established that the actual connection is not direct.