Saturday, July 26, 2014

Counting the pre-schoolers who can only recite numbers

February 19. 2013 5:05PM
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Turns out Count von Count had it right. You must not merely recite numbers, you must count them. That's two, two steps to learning math! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! (Cue lightening and thunder)

Sesame Street’s monocled, goatee-sporting, widow-peak coifed enumerating muppet never simply recited numbers, he counted items: Flowers, sneezes, apples, anything G-rated. A study by a University of Missouri assistant professor suggests kids who simply learn to recite numbers will do poorly in math once they reach school, compared to kids who learn to count and recite.

“Reciting means saying the numbers from memory in chronological order, whereas counting involves understanding that each item in the set is counted once and that the last number stated is the amount for the entire set,” Louis Manfra said in a press release.

Manfra found that, among 3,000 low-income preschoolers, those who could recite and count to 20 went on to have high math scores in first grade. The depressing part:  Less than 10 percent of the children in the study could count and recite to 20.

Bluntly, it sounds like a no-brainer. Kids who can sing the alphabet song can’t necessarily read. Why would we expect that reciting numbers by rote means you can add?

But even if it is a “well, duh” conclusion, it’s that second tidbit that should startle: More than 90 percent of kids he studied couldn’t count and recite.

Yet data from a report released today by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children (which I wrote about) suggests that, under Tom Corbett’s education policies and budgeting, we’re providing less help for these at-risk kids, not more. 

And we are doing this as results in state standardized math tests start sliding when they are supposed to improve under federal law … to the point where 100 percent of those tested score proficient in 2014.

I appreciate the need for fiscal restraint, but when I look at some of the numbers in education in this state, I wonder if the people doing the math in Harrisburg ever learned how to count, rather than merely recite.

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