Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

One, two, buckle my shoe: Importance of language to learning math

Date:
October 28, 2013
Source:
University of California, San Diego
Summary:
The language a child speaks affects the rate at which they learn number words, and hearing number words in natural conversation – not just in counting routines – is a critical part of learning the meaning of numbers.

Using numbers in ordinary conversation helps young children learn the meaning of numbers.
Credit: Photo by David Barner/UC San Diego.

Talk to your toddler. And use numbers when you talk. Doing so may give a child a better head start in math than teaching her to memorize 1-2-3 counting routines.

That's the takeaway of an international study published this week in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Led by David Barner, associate professor of psychology and linguistics in the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, the study examined how well children ages 2 to 4 understand number concepts.

It has been known since the 1970s that learning to count is different than comprehending what numbers really mean, said Barner, director of the Language and Development Lab at UC San Diego. A youngster who can recite numerals in the correct order, to 10 or even 20, will not necessarily be able to correctly answer "How many?" when presented with a small pile of five or even fewer.

It has also been known for a long time that "later mathematical achievements are affected by the very earliest experiences, but it has been difficult to point to what exactly it is about these early experiences that matters," Barner said.

So Barner and colleagues -- from University College London, King Saud University, University of Nova Gorica and MIT -- looked into the possible role of language. The researchers found a natural experiment among speakers of Slovenian in the capital Ljubljana and speakers of the Saudi dialect of Arabic. In both cases, in addition to singular and plural forms for words, the languages also make a finer grammatical distinction for sets of two. They have a "dual marker," or a piece of grammar that is similar to a plural, but that speakers use when talking about quantities of exactly two.

Children who speak these dual-marking languages seem to grasp the concept of "two" much earlier than their English-speaking counterparts, Barner said, even when the children have received little to no training on counting. In fact, they are faster to begin learning number words than children learning any other language reported so far, including Russian, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, despite the fact that some of those studied had much more experience with counting routines.

"Our study provides the strongest evidence to date that the language a child speaks affects the rate at which they learn number words, and also that hearing number words in naturalistic speech -- not just in counting routines and procedures -- is a critical part of number word learning," Barner said.

Interestingly, the early advantage conferred by language seems to disappear when looking at numbers over two and as the children grow. Where there are drastic differences among 2-year-olds who are "two-knowers," by age 4 the English speakers in San Diego have actually surpassed their counterparts in Riyadh and Ljubljana, and more of them understand "three" and higher.

"Language provides really rich cues to number meaning," Barner said, "but language only gets you so far." After that, you do need to teach the routines.

"We know that early learning about number is a critical foundation to later mathematics performance in the classroom," Barner said, "so it can only be beneficial to also expose kids to speech that contains informative cues to number concepts."

In the simplest terms: It is important to teach children to memorize their 1, 2, 3s along with their A, B, Cs. And singing songs like "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" can't hurt. But it's at least as important to put numbers into natural speech and say to your 12- to 24-month-old "There are two buttons," when pointing to a pair.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, San Diego. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, San Diego. "One, two, buckle my shoe: Importance of language to learning math." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162057.htm>.
University of California, San Diego. (2013, October 28). One, two, buckle my shoe: Importance of language to learning math. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162057.htm
University of California, San Diego. "One, two, buckle my shoe: Importance of language to learning math." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028162057.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
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:
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