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Friday, May 12, 2017

Do Parents See Math as 'Less Useful' Than Reading? | Education Week

Photo: Sarah D. Sparks
"Efforts to focus parents' attention on their children's early math skills have not gained traction—even as emerging evidence suggests it may be one of the most critical elements of school-readiness." summarizes , Reporter.

Nicole Lawson, left, and daughter Qui'shia Floyd attend an after-school common-core math class at Old Orchard Elementary School in Toledo, Ohio, in 2014. The class teaches parents how to use common-core "thinking math" to help their children with homework that's likely different from the math they learned in school.
Photo: Brian Widdis for Education Week-File

In the past 20 years, parents have taken to heart public-awareness campaigns urging them to read to their children every night. But math initiatives have not gained as much traction—even as emerging evidence suggests early math may be one of the most critical school-readiness skills. 

A survey last month of more than 2,500 parents found that they generally rank math and science as lower in importance and relevance to their children's lives than reading. Moreover, 38 percent of parents, including half the fathers surveyed, agreed with the statement "Skills in math are mostly useful for those that have careers related to math, so average Americans do not have much need for math skills," according to the survey by the Overdeck and Simons foundations. 

"Nobody is proud to say, 'I can barely read,' but plenty of parents are proud to stand up and say, 'I can barely do math, I didn't grow up doing well in math, and my kid's not doing well in math; that's just the way it is,' " said Mike Steele, a math education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who was not associated with the study.

"We need to shift the mindset that math is just some innate ability that has a genetic component, and you are either a math person or you are not, to a conception that everybody can do math with effort and support … and to understand why that's important." 

Early Math Critical 
In fact, some evidence suggests early-math skills can be crucial to students' overall school careers. In a 2007 study, Greg Duncan, an economist and education professor at the University of California, Irvine, and his colleagues used six large-scale longitudinal studies of students to look at what most affected a student's long-term school outcomes. They found that a child's math ability at the start of kindergarten was the best predictor of his or her academic performance in 8th grade, even more than early-reading scores, attention, or social-emotional development. That held true regardless of gender, race, or family income. 

Analyses of federal longitudinal data released last year showed that school-readiness gaps between poor and wealthier kindergartners have narrowed by 16 percent in the last 20 years, partly credited to low-income parents reading to their preschool-age children more frequently. However, math-readiness gaps shrank by only 10 percent during that time, though it's difficult to tell whether parents engaged their children more in math during that time. The federal data, which asked specific questions about the number of books in a child's home and the literacy activities parents did with their children, did not have explicit questions about math activities. 
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Additional resources 

Parent Perspectives on Math and Science - 2017 Public Opinion Survey (PDF)

Source: Education Week