Washington: A new research has found that kid's early spatial skills and knowledge of written letters, rather than oral language skills, predict math competence.
The research also found that children's ability to count sequences of numbers serve as a bridge: Children with stronger early spatial skills and knowledge of written letters did better in counting sequences of numbers; such skill in counting was related to later math competence in general.
The study was conducted by researchers at The Hong Kong Institute of Education, and the Niilo Maki Institute and the University of Jyvaskyla, both in Finland.
Xiao Zhang, assistant professor of psychology at The Hong Kong Institute of Education, who led the study, said that their results provide strong evidence that children's early acquisition of written language, spatial, and number skills forms important foundations for the development of their competence in math in the elementary years.
Researchers tested the linguistic and spatial skills of 1,880 Finnish children in kindergarten, gauging their awareness of phonetics, knowledge of letters and vocabulary, and understanding of spatial relations.
Then they tested the children's math performance on paper-and-pencil tests from first to third grade.
With a randomly selected group of about 375 children from the initial group, the researchers also tested how well the children could count numbers in forward and backward sequences when they were in first grade.
Kids with better written language skills not only had stronger math competence at the start of first grade, but advanced more rapidly in math through third grade. In contrast, children with strong oral language skills were not more likely to show strong math ability later.
The study has been published in the journal Child Development.