Formal maths at 3 years old?

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Formal maths at 3 years old?

New study shows more rigour in preschooler maths has benefits

In recent years, there have been more advocates in the United States pushing to expand publicly funded preschool programmes. As a result, more children are exposed to formal mathematics and reading lessons at a younger age.

Some education experts and parents become worried, believing that preschoolers should be playing with blocks, and not sitting still while a teacher explains the concepts of shapes. “Many children are not ready to do that without being put under a lot of stress and strain,” said Ms Joan Almon, an expert on play-based education with the Alliance for Childhood, an advocacy group.

However, a new national study led by Mr Bruce Fuller at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests that children with a year of “academic-oriented pre-school” outperformed peers at less academic- focused pre-schools by, on average, two and a half months of learning in literacy and mathematics.

“If you can combine creative play with rich language, formal conversations and mathematics concepts, that’s more likely to yield the cognitive gains we observed,” he said.

The new type of preschools provide playtime, but with the major goal as academic “kindergarten readiness”, this study could provide more bulk for policy makers who want the academic aspect to stay.

Are all parents convinced?

Not all parents are won over. Many who are college-educated are concerned that the love of learning would be extinguished by the time the children start primary school.

The Berkeley study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, assessed the children’s behaviour based on interviews with their parents. It was found that the children did not appear to be hurt socially or emotionally by attending the more academic programmes. The research also confirmed that academic pre-kindergarten benefited both the poor and middle-class American children.

Nevertheless, it is important to note that the study had limitations. It followed children for a relatively short period, and it remained unclear if the benefits would extend beyond kindergarten. Previous research has shown the “fade-out” effect, where early academic gains are lost over time. This makes it more difficult to close the achievement gap between poor and middle-class children.


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