In 2007, research data from six longitudinal studies covering over 36,000 preschoolers was analyzed to determine factors important for school success in children preparing for kindergarten. According to Northwestern University researcher Greg Duncan, “We find the single most important factor in predicting later academic achievement is that children begin school with a mastery of early math and literacy concepts.”
The idea that an understanding of math and language fundamentals helps children do better in schools is not surprising. However, the degree to which early math skills play a role is. “The paramount importance of early math skills – of beginning school with a knowledge of numbers, number order and other rudimentary math concepts — is one of the puzzles coming out of the study,” said Duncan.
According to the research, solid early mathematics skills are the strongest predictor of future academic success; greater than early reading skills, attention skills, and socioeconomic factors!
So what early math skills are most important?
The research focuses on “school-entry math skills” such as understanding small numbers (up to 30), quantities, and simple shapes. In addition, being able to count, compare, sort, and describe objects (up to 30) are considered core kindergarten math skills. Learn more about kindergarten curriculum standards in math here.
A host of online tools are available to help young children improve their math and reading skills and technology has made great strides in the past several years in areas related to children’s educational software. However, many of the technical advances may be overwhelming for young learners. Websites with 3D graphics and online virtual worlds (“edutainment”) may be a useful tool for older children looking to build skills while having fun on the computer. Younger children can be easily distracted by the overuse of technology in many of these programs.
On the other end of the spectrum are learning packages that are little more than online worksheets, offering little value above their paper counterparts. While it is important for young children to gain familiarity with the use of a computer, it is equally important that they are able to use software designed just for them.
The KinderIQ free Kindergarten Readiness Test features dozens of online questions to help you assess your child’s readiness for school and allows you to compare your responses to thousand of other parents so you know where to focus future learning activities.