Before Children Enter Kindergarten, They Need To Know How to Count

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

David C. Geary, Ph.D. Curators’ Distinguished Professor Thomas Jefferson Fellow Department of Psychological Sciences Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program University of Missouri Columbia, MO

Dr. David Geary

David C. Geary, Ph.D.
Curators’ Distinguished Professor
Thomas Jefferson Fellow
Department of Psychological Sciences
Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In an earlier study, we found that children’s understanding of numbers and the relations among them (e.g., that 6 = 5 + 1 & 4 + 2 & 3 + 3…) at the beginning of 1st grade predicted their performance on math measures in adolescence, controlling IQ, working memory, family background and other factors. These are measures that predict employability and wages in young adults and thus is practically important. We were interested in understanding the very early quantitative knowledge that predicts children’s later number knowledge. We tested children on a variety of quantitative measures 2 years before they entered kindergarten and in kindergarten gave them the same type of number test that we used in the first study. We found that 3 year olds’ cardinal knowledge was critical to their later understanding of number relations, controlling IQ and many other factors. Cardinal knowledge is their understanding of the quantities associated with number words. So, if you ask a child to give you 3 toys, and they give you a handful, they do not understand what ‘three’ means. Young children with poor knowledge of number words, we at risk for poor math outcomes in kindergarten, controlling other factors.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Based on this study and others from our project, we have found that before children enter kindergarten, they need to know the count list (i.e., one, two, three, four, five…), recognize numerals (i.e., 1, 2, 3, ….) and understand the cardinal value of number words at least up to three, preferably beyond this. Parent can facilitate children’s learning of these skills by engaging them in number-related tasks at home; e.g., counting toys.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: I think the next step is to work on developing interventions for improving young children’s understanding of cardinal value.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Alex M. Moore, Kristy vanMarle, David C. Geary.Kindergartners’ fluent processing of symbolic numerical magnitude is predicted by their cardinal knowledge and implicit understanding of arithmetic 2years earlier.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 2016; 150: 31 DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2016.05.003

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