Math Games at Home Promote Math Achievement in School

Father and daughter using a tabletWhen children and parents play a math game together, children’s math achievement at school may improve, according to a study published in Science.

Math skills can be a major predictor of both academic and career success, particularly in an increasingly technological society. The United States Department of Education predicts higher-than-average job growth in math-related careers through 2020, offering parents a significant incentive to encourage their children’s interest in math.

Learning Math Through Play

To explore how math-related play and storytelling might affect math performance, researchers gave 587 first-grade students an iPad installed with a version of the Bedtime Math app. The app encourages parents and children to read math-related stories, then solve problems with counting, shapes, and other math-related topics. A control group of children received an app focused on reading comprehension rather than math skills.

Researchers evaluated children’s math skills at the beginning and end of the school year. The more frequently children used the app with their parents, the better their math performance was in an assessment at the end of the year. Children who used the reading app did not experience the same benefits. At the end of the study, students who used the math app had math skills almost three months ahead of students who used the reading app.

Parents whose responses to a survey suggested high levels of math anxiety saw an added benefit. Their children’s improvements in math achievement were even more dramatic. Math anxiety can affect math performance and may inhibit critical thinking. A 2014 study found that people who feel anxious about math are less adept at understanding health-related information. For parents concerned about how their math anxiety might affect their children, a math game could be a powerful antidote.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Grace Malonai, PhD, LPCC, is a California psychotherapist who specializes in work with children and their families. Malonai suggests parents become involved in their children’s math learning to encourage higher achievement.

“Parent involvement can make an important difference when it comes to promoting lifelong learning skills and building interest and confidence in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM),” Malonai says. “When parents engage in these topics alongside their children, show interest in their children’s homework, and importantly, choose STEM subjects to read out loud to their younger children, they actively engage and model the value of these topics.”

For parents who are eager to offer their children the benefits of reading about math, Malonai suggests the following books:

References:

  1. Math story time at home bolsters achievement in school. (2015, October 8). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151008152222.htm
  2. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: Education for Global Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/stem
  3. Swayne, M. (2014, February 27). Math anxiety factors into understanding genetically modified food messages. Retrieved from http://news.psu.edu/story/305836/2014/02/27/research/math-anxiety-factors-understanding-genetically-modified-food

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  • Robert

    Robert

    October 13th, 2015 at 3:32 PM

    I agree that the more exposure in a positive way that a child has to a subject then the better prepared they are going to be not only to learn the material but to also be willing to work hard on the material even when they do not initially understand the problem. I think that this is especially true with math because it can be such a challenge for so many kids if they are not academically mature enough to understand the material, but if they are given a great amount of confidence at home when trying new things and show a willingness to work hard, then they will probably have a much better shot at being successful with it.

  • brady

    brady

    October 14th, 2015 at 3:34 PM

    any thoughts on why the improvement in reading was not the same as the math? i mean i am happy that there is math improvement and that it encourages parents and children to learn together, but i just have to wonder why the improvement in one subject does not equate across the board.

  • Ann

    Ann

    October 14th, 2015 at 4:55 PM

    Hi! I find this very interesting.
    My son is 19 and has always been very good in Math.
    I am asking here for myself and hoping to also increase the relationship between my son and I.
    Is there anything an older Mom can do to get help with Math?
    While I was growing up I had a terrible time with Math. Looking back I needed glasses when I was in 3rd grade. From 3rd until my Sophomore year, 16 yrs old I had terrible vision. Why my parents never noticed that I needed glasses is beyond me. When it was time to get my drivers license I could not pass the vision test. Finally parents took me to an ophthalmologist who diagnosed me being near sighted. Parents bought me glasses, but nothing could make up for the 8 years of schooling I went through not being able to see.
    In 2nd grade my Dad tried to help me with Math, but he always started yelling at me before it was over. So, I have some sort of mental block about Math, and not being able to see for 8 years definitely contributed to my NON-understanding of Math.
    Is theye anyone who can help me at my age?

  • Jo

    Jo

    October 18th, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    Your local library should be able to steer you in a direction to get math help.

  • Ann

    Ann

    October 19th, 2015 at 5:42 AM

    Thank you Joe!!!

  • Cassidy

    Cassidy

    October 16th, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    Maybe this has more to do with the parents simply being involved then it does what they are doing together.

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