Most of you probably know me as a researcher who is passionate about using media and technology to enhance learning for kids. That’s true. But I also happen to have a particular affinity for math-learning in the early years. In grad school, my adviser was Herb Ginsburg, who co-wrote a preschool math curriculum, and I spent many years working with teachers to implement it. Now that I’m a parent of preschoolers, I look for math everywhere, and take every opportunity to talk about math concepts with my kids. I was always good at math in school, and have no fear at facing it; however, I understand for many American women, I might be in the minority about this.
Nonetheless, I was surprised to read in the Motherlode column of the NY Times that researchers have recently discovered that mothers talk about math less to their daughters than their sons. In other words, the Moms in this study spent more time with their sons going over principles that involve counting or cardinality (how much). The researchers did not say that this lack of early math talk is the cause for why girls tend to be less confident in math, but they do suggest that “familiarity breeds liking”.
My blood pressure tends to rise just little every time I read a research study that puts blame on parents. After all, parents are an just easy target. In reality, this research did not even find a connection between math performance and math talk by mothers; it simply said that mothers talk less about math to their daughters. And we all know that a variety of factors could influence math confidence, but none of those were investigated. So no pressure, Moms, but apparently you subconsciously aren’t expecting your daughter to be an engineer, an architect, or an astrophysicist. That’s interesting. I’m proud to claim I am expecting my daughter to be one of those. Or maybe all.
I felt like this was a good opportunity for me to point out how nicely Nickelodeon’s Team Umizoomi works for co-viewing. Both my son AND my daughter thoroughly enjoy this show, and (thanks to their mom’s co-viewing) find the math challenges on the show to be easily accomplished. My daughter quickly learned how to count backwards from 10 due to the show’s theme song. She looks for math patterns every where we go, can identify all her basic shapes, and has a tendency to read out loud the street address of every apartment building we walk by. Perhaps it’s not necessarily co-viewing this TV show that makes her enjoy math – perhaps it is just her math-loving mother. But in any case, co-viewing Team Umizoomi has given us a platform to work on this school topic together, in a non-threatening way. In addition, there is more good news – several new math TV show are on their way, starting in the fall on PBS. Look for one aimed at preschoolers, and another aimed at kids in early elementary school.
Go forth, ye parents, and co-view a math show TV show with your daughter!