Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

First grade math skills set foundation for later math ability

Date:
February 27, 2013
Source:
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Summary:
Children who failed to acquire a basic math skill in first grade scored far behind their peers by seventh grade on a test of the mathematical abilities needed to function in adult life, according to researchers.

Number system knowledge is the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it, and to manipulate quantities and make calculations. For example, the 3dots shown can be represented by the numeral three and that 3 is made up of 2 and 1.
Credit: Image courtesy of NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Children who failed to acquire a basic math skill in first grade scored far behind their peers by seventh grade on a test of the mathematical abilities needed to function in adult life, according to researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The basic math skill, number system knowledge, is the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it, and to manipulate quantities and make calculations. This skill is the basis for all other mathematics abilities, including those necessary for functioning as an adult member of society, a concept called numeracy.

The researchers reported that early efforts to help children overcome difficulty in acquiring number system knowledge could have significant long-term benefits. They noted that more than 20 percent of U.S. adults do not have the eighth grade math skills needed to function in the workplace.

"An early grasp of quantities and numbers appears to be the foundation on which we build more complex understandings of numbers and calculations," said Kathy Mann Koepke, Ph.D., director of the Mathematics and Science Cognition and Learning: Development and Disorders Program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH institute that sponsored the research. "Given the national priority on education in science, technology, engineering and math fields, it is crucial for us to understand how children become adept at math and what interventions can help those who struggle to build these skills."

Senior author David C. Geary, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri, Columbia, conducted the research with colleagues Mary K. Hoard, Ph.D., and Lara Nugent, and with Drew H. Bailey, Ph.D., of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. The study appears online in PLoS One.

These results are part of a long-term study of children in the Columbia, Mo., school system. Initially, first graders from 12 elementary schools were evaluated on their number system knowledge. Number system knowledge encompasses several core principles:

  • Numbers represent different magnitudes (five is bigger than four).
  • Number relationships stay the same, even though numbers may vary. For example, the difference between 1 and 2 is the same as the difference between 30 and 31.
  • Quantities (for example, three stars) can be represented by symbolic figures (the numeral 3).
  • Numbers can be broken into component parts (5 is made up of 2 and 3 or 1 and 4).

The researchers also evaluated such cognitive skills as memory, attention span, and general intelligence.

The researchers found that by seventh grade, children who had the lowest scores on an assessment of number system knowledge in first grade lagged behind their peers. They noted that these differences in numeracy between the two groups were not related to intelligence, language skills or the method students used to make their computations.

For the testing at age 13, 180 of the students took timed assessments that included multiple-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems; word problems; and comparisons and computations with fractions. Previous studies have shown that these tests evaluate functional numeracy―skills that adults need to join and succeed in the workplace. This might include the limited understanding of algebra needed to make change such as being able to provide an answer to a question such as: "If an item costs $1.40 and you give the clerk $2, how many quarters and how many dimes should you get back?" Other aspects of functional numeracy include the ability to manipulate fractions, as when doubling the ingredients in a recipe (for example, adding 1 cups water when doubling a recipe that calls for cups water) or finding the center of a wall when wanting to center a painting or a shelf.

The researchers' analysis showed that a low score on the assessment of number system knowledge in first grade significantly increased a student's risk of getting a low functional numeracy score as a teenager.

The researchers examined learning and found that first graders with the lowest scores also had the slowest growth in number system knowledge throughout that school year. Starting with poor number knowledge can put children so far behind that they never catch up, the researchers said.

"These findings are especially valuable for bringing attention to the idea that numeracy early in life has profound effects not only for the individual, but also for the society that individual works and lives in," Dr. Mann Koepke said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David C. Geary, Mary K. Hoard, Lara Nugent, Drew H. Bailey. Adolescents’ Functional Numeracy Is Predicted by Their School Entry Number System Knowledge. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e54651 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054651

Cite This Page:

NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "First grade math skills set foundation for later math ability." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130227151302.htm>.
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2013, February 27). First grade math skills set foundation for later math ability. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130227151302.htm
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "First grade math skills set foundation for later math ability." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130227151302.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Program to Overcome Early U.S. Math Deficiencies Could Improve Workforce

Jan. 30, 2013 Researchers identified how a lack of a specific math skill in first grade correlated to lower scores on a seventh grade math test used to determine employability and wages in ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins