Maths ability develops earlier than thought

3rd July 1998 at 01:00
CHILDREN as young as three are able to comprehend basic numbers, and many of them later begin school with a far greater understanding of maths than has previously been recognised, writes Tom Innes in Chicago.

New research from the University of Chicago has identified the period between a child's third and fourth birthday as the key stage for development of children's grasp of maths.

Children from disadvantaged social backgrounds, though less skilled in verbal communication by the time they start school, are shown to be as adept as other children when it comes to numbers and figures.

In the paper issued by the university's Early Childhood Initiative, Professor Susan Levine said young pupils were likely to learn maths better if teaching was less verbally orientated.

"Often when children cannot respond correctly to the verbal mathematics problems presented in classrooms, it is assumed they lack an understanding of mathematical concepts," she said.

"Our findings show that children with specific language impairments have well-developed mathematical concepts, but may not know the conventional verbal symbols of arithmetic nor the verbal skills needed to solve mathematical problems."

Ms Levine said that some children with limited maths vocabularies would count on their fingers when solving problems. She said that this should not be discouraged, saying that it could even be argued that those who performed poorly and did not use their fingers should be encouraged to do so.

The researchers established that, as children approached the age of three, they began to develop non-verbal calculation. Over the following year the children quickly expanded their ability to understand the abstract relationship between numbers and sets of objects and events. By the age of four, after hearing a number of drum beats, most children could pick out a card with the same number of objects on it.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now