Chart showing growth in numeracy skills over time.

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. Starting with poor number knowledge can put children so far behind that they never catch up, the researchers reported. Chart and caption courtesy NICHD.

Another in a series of peer reviewed studies demonstrating the importance of early math was released Wednesday. A study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, one of the National Institutes of Health, found that children’s 1st grade math skills predicted their math abilities in 7th grade.

The study followed nearly 200 children of varying socioeconomic backgrounds from several elementary schools in Columbia, MO. Researchers tested students on math tasks that measured students’ basic understanding of how numbers work, known in the fielld as “numeracy skills.” Specifically, researchers tested children’s competence with addition strategies, number line estimates and number set manipulation. In plain English, researchers asked children how they arrived at the answer to simple addition problems, had them place a number in the correct spot on a blank number line and asked them to circle different visual representations (think a domino with dots on two sides) of the number 5. These skills are seen as the basis for all other math skills and for adult tasks like computing change or centering a shelf on a wall.

Going deeper

Filed under: Early Learning, Quick Hits, STEM

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