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Math games in preschool stage helps kids grasp fundamentals of maths better

alyan Ray
Last Updated : 07 July 2017, 14:54 IST
Last Updated : 07 July 2017, 14:54 IST

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Exposing preschool Indian children to rudimentary mathematical games would help the kids grasp mathematics better when they start their primary education, US researchers have found on the basis of a four-month long experiments in Delhi schools.
 
The study carried out by the scholars from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab South Asia, here, opens up a new window to look at reforming the school curricula using science.
 
Children in developing countries like India are often under-prepared for demanding primary school curricula, particularly in mathematics, with poor curricula being taught in the schools, partially to blame. The annual drop put rate from primary schools is growing.
 
According to the central government's official data, the national dropout rate at the primary level was 4.34% in 2014-15.
 
Decades of research into development of children’s mathematical reasoning have attempted to find out what needs to be learned before a child is ready to begin mathematics. The research suggests preschool-level training with numerate adults on basic numerical abilities that could help the kids learn the numbers and their rules better.
 
To test the findings in a resource-poor setting, the Indo-US team carried out a four-month long programme in 214 schools in Delhi run by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation. More than 1500 kids of 3-7 years of age were exposed to 10 mathematical games. A group of trainers, who were given few days of training, played these games with the children.
 
Children who played the games improved in areas like knowledge of number words and symbols, while their peers, who were given social training or no training did not noticeably improve, the researchers reported in the July 7 issue of the journal Science. Math-trained children also showed immediate gains on symbolic mathematical skills.
 
The gains in the first group persisted up to a year. However, they did not trickle over into the comprehension of more complex mathematical concepts during primary school. Even so, the findings may inform efforts to reform school curricula using basic science, the researchers felt.
 
The overall cost for making these games available to a group of six children for more months is $316, which includes the material cost ($ 217) and the remuneration to the trainers. If the model is scaled up then the cost would come down because the same material could be reused.
 
The study represents one of the first efforts to field-test a critical assumption in modern psychology; namely, that children’s learning of the symbolic mathematics taught in primary school would be facilitated by activities that exercise their intuitive cognitive abilities during preschool years.
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Published 07 July 2017, 14:53 IST

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