TV shows help parents teach early maths skills

A recent report by WestEd examined the effects of maths-related online activities and parental support materials from the US TV shows Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That on preschool children’s maths skills and their parents’ ability to support maths learning at home.

Two Head Start centres in a low-income area in California were randomly assigned to serve either as an experimental or control group for eight weeks. A total of 90 parent/child pairs were involved, with two-thirds eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches. The mean age of the children was 4 years, 5 months.

All children learned the same maths concepts addressed in the TV shows (numbers and base ten, measurement and data, and geometry and spatial sense). However, the experimental group were assigned to use related online maths material and parental support materials at home for 30 minutes a day, four days a week, as well as attending a weekly meeting addressing that week’s theme.

Post-tests showed that the experimental group scored significantly better than the control group in numerical sense. Parental awareness of their children’s maths ability increased over time, and parent surveys showed that they felt guided and supported by the meetings and competent to continue to help their children at home.

Source: Learning with PBS KIDS: A Study of Family Engagement and Early Mathematics Achievement (2015), WestEd.

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