Researchers at the University of Chicago say the amount of time parents spend talking about numbers has an impact on how young children grasp math principles, a university release reported Tuesday.
"By the time children enter preschool, there are marked individual differences in their mathematical knowledge, as shown by their performance on standardized tests," psychologist Susan Levine, the leader of the study, said.
As an example, children with parents who talked with them more about numbers proved more likely to understand the cardinal number principle, that the size of a set of objects is determined by the last number reached when counting the set.
"These findings suggest that encouraging parents to talk about numbers with their children, and providing them with effective ways to do so, may positively impact children's school achievement," Levine said.
The researches recorded parent-child interactions in the home and analyzed the connections between parents' number talk and subsequent performance.
The variation in number words was startling for researchers as they reviewed tapes of youngsters interacting with their parents in everyday activities.
Some parents produced as few as four number words during the entire period they were studied, while others produced as many as 257.
Frequent use of number words is important, even if the child doesn't seem to pick up on the meanings of the number words right away, Levine said.
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