Catching and Preventing Math Difficulties Early On

There are many unique stresses associated with being the parent of a toddler – from the terrible two’s to the first day at preschool and beyond. One such stress comes from watching your children’s first steps into education. Will they be adequately prepared by the time they get to kindergarten? Are they learning the fundamental skills they’ll need? Is there anything you could be doing to ensure that they get the best possible foundation?

A recent study by psychologist Paul L. Morgan et al. shed some light on that last question. Using data from two large groups of children observed over a period of ten years or more, researchers identified several factors which, when present in 24-month-olds, were predictive of persistent math difficulties (PMD) in kindergarten and later on.

The most surprising such predicting factor was vocabulary. Difficulties in learning and mastering vocabulary – and, in somewhat older students, difficulties with reading skills – can actually serve as a red flag for math issues as well. Fortunately, though, the connection goes both ways – the study’s results suggest that interventions to help young children with language skills can also help to build their foundation in math.

The researchers suggest three strategies for nipping math difficulties in the bud: actively working with affected children to build their literacy and vocabulary skills, increasing access to preschool for children who may be at risk, and not requiring students to repeat a grade if they perform poorly.

You can read Morgan et al.’s full report here [though there is a pay wall], or, if you’d prefer, you can read the much shorter but very informative interview with Morgan on Education Week here.

If you believe your child may fit Morgan et al.’s profile, we encourage you to learn more and follow up with teachers and/or tutors about positive interventions to help your child build a strong foundation in both language and math.

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