Math Patterns: Skills for Success?


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When it comes to early math, not all skills are created equal. Of course, counting is an important part of preschool, but new research suggests that understanding patterns and being able to compare quantities are not beyond little learners, and may also help prepare students for math success.

For Nicolas Ramos, Legos mean hours of entertainment, building a city or even a train. For mom, Maria, it’s a teaching moment disguised as play.

Maria told Ivanhoe, “I’ll say okay, you take one of these and two of these. One of these. And two of these. Then he starts learning about patterns.”

Bethany Rittle-Johnson, PhD, is an educational psychologist at Vanderbilt University. She and her colleagues followed 517 low-income children from age four to 11. When the children were in preschool and at the end of first grade, researchers tested them on general knowledge and six math skills, including counting, comparing quantities and patterning. They wanted to know if among other things those three math skills at age four and five would predict math achievement at age 11. The study suggests they do.

“The way I think this is done well is when it’s just kind of incorporated into the fun things you’re doing,” detailed Rittle-Johnson.

Card games, crafts, and building blocks provide parents opportunities to talk about quantities and patterns. For Beth Jordan and Kaitlin, these are built into their daily routine.

“It’s just a part of us talking to her,” said Beth.

Rittle-Johnson said because not all types of math knowledge were equal, the study suggests patterning, and comparing quantities should get more attention in a formal school setting than they currently do. Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Jamison Koczan, Editor; Roque Correa, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.