Meta-Analysis Aims to Shed Light on the Home Math Environment


Parents and families are constantly reminded about the importance of reading with their children, but what about math? Like reading difficulties, problems with math can delay children’s’ educational progress and jeopardize future outcomes.

“The advice and guidelines for how we can support children’s math skill development are much less clear and universally known and practiced than actions meant to support reading. Lots of parents read their kids a bedtime story, but what is the math equivalent?” asked Mia Daucourt, doctoral student, Research Assistant at the Florida Learning Disabilities Research Center, and first author of The Home Math Environment and Children’s Math Achievement: A Meta-Analysis, recently published in Psychological Bulletin.

Home Math Environment

To explore why some children do well while others struggle once math is introduced in school, Daucourt and her colleagues examined the home math environment (HME), a likely factor that could explain these early differences. The HME refers to everything math related taking place in the home, from counting aloud and flashcards, to playing board games and using recipes in the kitchen. It also includes the overall attitudes about math in the home–from parents’ feelings about math, the way in which they talk with their children about math, and the math expectations they place upon them. Additionally, HME incorporates math-related language use in the home, such as early conversations about quantities and concepts like the meaning of ‘more’ and ‘less.’

To test the relationship of the HME to children’s math achievement, Daucourt used the power of 64 different studies and 68 independent samples in a meta-analysis–an examination of existing studies with differing sample sizes, populations, and characteristics. While the findings are limited to the studies that were available on the HME and their characteristics, she and her colleagues did find that the HME is indeed linked to children’s math achievement.

They also tested whether some of the ways in which the studies differed were affecting the link between the HME and children’s math. Results found that the link is different depending on a child’s point in development. For example, younger children show a stronger link when exposed to more technical and direct math activities like practicing times tables with flash cards, whereas older children are likely to need more ‘real word’ math experience like estimating a grocery bill together on a shopping trip.

Mia Daucourt

Mia Daucourt

Daucourt also found that how well parents expect their children to do in math matters. In order for parent math expectations to be effective, parents need to know which math skills are developmentally appropriate for their child. Findings would indicate that it would be worthwhile to spend time and resources teaching parents about children’s math development, giving them the knowledge they need for age-appropriate math expectations.

Furthermore, despite the HME being considered as a point of early entry for math socialization and practice, the researchers also found parents should continue to discuss math expectations with their children past the primary grades.

Daucourt is hopeful this new knowledge about the HME will be leveraged by educators, parents, and caregivers to shape the home math environment in ways that can help kids be ready to succeed in school.

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