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Study documents importance of language to learning math

Posted October 29, 2013

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.

1, 2, buckle my shoe
Using numbers in ordinary conversation helps young children learn the meaning of numbers. Credit: David Barner/UC San Diego.

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.

Read more at: MedicalXpress

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