It saddens me that beautiful ideas get such a rote treatment:. Elegant, "a ha! I hit an "a ha" moment after a hellish cram session in college; since then, I've wanted to find and share those epiphanies to spare others the same pain. But it works both ways -- I want you to share insights with me, too. There's more understanding, less pain, and everyone wins.
I consider math as a way of thinking, and it's important to see how that thinking developed rather than only showing the result. Let's try an example. Imagine you're a caveman doing math. One of the first problems will be how to count things. Several systems have developed over time:. Think we're done? No way. In years we'll have a system that makes decimal numbers look as quaint as Roman Numerals "By George, how did they manage with such clumsy tools? Let's think about numbers a bit more. The example above shows our number system is one of many ways to solve the "counting" problem.
The Romans would consider zero and fractions strange, but it doesn't mean "nothingness" and "part to whole" aren't useful concepts. But see how each system incorporated new ideas. They may not make sense right now, just like zero didn't "make sense" to the Romans. We need new real-world relationships like debt for them to click.
You: Negative numbers are a great idea, but don't inherently exist. It's a label we apply to a concept. You: Ah. So the actual number I have -3 or 0 depends on whether I think he'll pay me back. I didn't realize my opinion changed how counting worked. In my world, I had zero the whole time. You: Ok, so he returns 3 cows and we jump 6, from -3 to 3? Any other new arithmetic I should be aware of?
What does sqrt cows look like? We've created a "negative number" model to help with bookkeeping, even though you can't hold -3 cows in your hand. I purposefully used a different interpretation of what "negative" means: it's a different counting system, just like Roman numerals and decimals are different counting systems. By the way, negative numbers weren't accepted by many people, including Western mathematicians, until the s.
The idea of a negative was considered "absurd". Negative numbers do seem strange unless you can see how they represent complex real-world relationships, like debt. A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. Hence, overall it is not clear how and when during development phonological ability contributes to mathematical development. Non-verbal intelligence also seems strongly related to mathematical achievement. For example, in a longitudinal study from kindergarten to grade 2, de Jong and van der Leij found that non-verbal intelligence, word knowledge, and phonological awareness were important predictors of initial mathematical skill.
Spatial processes can be potentially important in mathematics where explicit or implicit visualization is required, like when imagining operations along the number line or visualizing functional relationships. In fact, Rourke suggested that specific poor mathematical achievement can be related to so-called non-verbal learning difficulties characterized by poor visuo-spatial organization skill.
Several studies have found that mathematical skill correlates with general executive functioning and task switching e. Task-switching control , attentional and inhibition processes seem very important for mathematics because they coordinate which items of interest receive processing and when and in what order they enter processing.
Such functions are probably very important in calculations which require the continuous selection and coordination of several processing steps and items in memory. Recently, some have suggested that mathematical achievement strongly relates to a so-called number sense, a proposed domain-specific intuition for magnitude Dehaene, Number sense has typically been measured using non-symbolic magnitude discrimination tasks where children decide which of two dot patterns is more numerous. In such a task Mazzocco, Feigenson and Halberda set up several regression models and found that magnitude discrimination ability predicts performance on standardized mathematics tests even when spatial memory performance is considered.
However, beta values were not communicated and, more critically, mathematics and magnitude discrimination performance were measured in grades 8 and 9 while memory performance scores were determined in grade 3. Considering the 6-year gap between taking measures, the validity of the analyses is not clear. However, other math performance measures were not correlated with non-symbolic discrimination and other variables were not controlled. However, in this study non-symbolic comparison was actually measured well after math performance.
Besides, the above studies typically use hierarchical regression analysis which relies on very strong model assumptions that can greatly bias analysis outcomes. Overall, there is a clear need for a study that considers the predictive power of number sense variables on mathematical achievement in the context of several other variables.
In this study we contrasted the predictive power of several cognitive abilities, including various measures of the number sense, on mathematical skill in nearly children. We had measures of spatial orientation ability, knowledge of spatial symmetry, mental rotation, finger knowledge, a measure of sustained attention and response inhibition stop signal task , and measured baseline simple RT in a target detection task. We measured spatial bias using a line bisection task and determined several parameters accuracy, RT and coefficient of variation of three proposed measures of the number sense non-symbolic and symbolic number comparison and subitizing.
We also measured dot enumeration performance in the counting range 4—6 dots. We used two standardized tests of mathematical operations as outcome measures and a standardized reading test as a control outcome measure. Hence, we tested whether our preferred model specifically predicts mathematics achievement. We used robust permutation based bootstrap correlation and regression analyses which are not subject to any distributional assumptions.
Here we report data from 98 children recruited from Year 3 and Year 4 classes of schools in Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Essex in the United Kingdom. The socioeconomic status score was 3. The parents of children gave consent to taking part in the detailed study reported here. Children completed approximately 7 hours of testing across several testing sessions, and 95 to 98 children had available scores along all measures examined in crucial regression models reported in the current paper 98 for the best models and 95 for number sense variable focused models.
Data for these children are reported here. Children were initially tested using standardized group mathematics and reading tests which were administered to whole classes. Trail-making tests A and B were administered. Children were asked to identify, with their eyes closed, which finger had been touched by the experimenter using the eraser end of a pencil. Children were familiarized with finger names prior to the task. The experimenter touched the children's fingers in a randomized order and responses were recorded using a voice recorder.
Our first goal of division is to subtract angles. For a modification of this division to yield only one single result, the natural numbers must be extended to rational numbers or real numbers. What information do I have? Roman Numerals: More advanced unary, with shortcuts for large numbers. The Oxford Mathematics Study Dictionary.
Children bisected 16 lines of varying length. Lines were presented individually on strips of paper. Lines varied with respect to the alignment with the midline of the strips of paper. The total time to bisect the 16 lines was recorded. The distance from the leftmost point of the line to the point where the children made their midpoint estimate was measured to the nearest mm using a ruler.
The difference between the actual midpoint and the estimate was calculated and recorded for each item. For each item within a worksheet, a target stimulus was presented, along with three comparison stimuli, two of which were mirror images distractors and one was identical to the target. All three comparison images were rotated by various angles. The children were required to identify and circle the stimulus identical to the target.
Children's accuracy and time to complete all seven items was recorded for each worksheet. Children were presented with two pages which contained six half-drawn shapes against a grid background. A dashed line indicated the line of symmetry. Children were required to draw the other half of the shape for each item. Shapes and lines of symmetry were presented vertically on one page and horizontally on the other.
The total time to complete the 12 shapes was recorded and the accuracy of items was scored with one point for every correct line segment. Children were presented with a map containing different items such as a tree, car, cat and traffic light. Children were required to imagine themselves in this space, and to imagine they were standing next to one item, and facing another item.
The children were then required to estimate the direction of a third item and draw the location of this item in relation to the other two items on a piece of paper. Correct responses received a score of 1, with a maximum of 6 points available. It is important to note that this scale was not standardized and we could not determine the reliability of this scale, which is a limitation of our study. Future research should use a proven reliable measure of this construct. Children pressed a key in response to a white square which appeared after , or ms. There were 60 trials.
The number of hits and misses for targets, the RT for target hits, the number of correct rejections and false alarms for deceivers and non-target trials were recorded. Children were presented with 80 triads of the three different trial types. A white arrow, pointing left or right, was shown on a black background in the middle of the screen. The arrow was followed by either a sound, the stop signal, or there was no sound. The time delay until the stop sound was dynamically varied between 0 and ms depending on performance see Supplementary Methods.
Children completed three blocks of 60 trials. Two sets of black dots were presented simultaneously on a white background. The children's task was to decide which set contained more dots and press the button on the side of the larger set. Dot size was varied between sets. There were four blocks of 32 stimuli. See more details in Supplementary Methods.
Children decided whether visually presented digits were smaller or larger than 5. Children pressed a button on the keyboard with their left hand if the number was smaller than 5 and another button with their right hand if the number was larger than 5. Two blocks of 40 stimuli were presented. Arrays containing one to six black dots appeared on a white background and children were instructed to say the number of dots as quickly as possible.
Dot stimuli were presented in canonical and, where possible, non-canonical arrangements. Two blocks of 30 trials were presented. RTs were measured using a voice-key. To start with, zero-order and partial correlations were studied. Other variables were considered to have a robust relationship with math if their correlation remained even after controlling for the three IQ variables. Highly intercorrelated variables were averaged in order to avoid problems with multicollinearity see Results.
Bootstrap and permutation procedures followed Chihara and Hesterberg and Fox These procedures do not rely on any assumptions regarding the distribution of variables.
In all, , bootstrap samples were taken with replacement, the correlation coefficient was computed for each sample and confidence limits were determined using values at the 2. When computing bootstrap confidence intervals, correlations can be considered robust if their confidence interval does not include zero. That is, this procedure offers another criterion for establishing the significance of correlations besides traditionally used p values. In order to determine the importance of individual predictors, simultaneous multiple linear regression was used throughout this study.
The order of entry into models is irrelevant in simultaneous regressions unlike in hierarchical regression. The procedure finds an optimally weighted sum of predictor variables for predicting the dependent variable. The modelling attempt started with the potential predictor variables showing significant partial correlations with math. We tested whether non-significant predictor variables can become significant predictors when adding them to the model one by one. This was achieved by adding a single, previously non-significant variable to the model with significant predictors one by one.
None of the non-significant predictors became significant. In order to determine potential gender differences, another analysis also added Gender as a dummy variable to the best model. In order to get a measure of any potentially remaining multi-collinearity problems in regression models the variance inflation factor VIF; see e. Cohen, ; O'Brien, was computed from the overall intercorrelation tables of all variables tried in various models. Typically, VIF values larger than 5 or 10 are considered to indicate multi-collinearity problems.
All VIF values we measured were smaller than 2. To this end, , bootstrap samples were generated with replacement. The confidence intervals of robustly significant variables should not include zero. To this end, , permutations were generated without replacement. That is, the order of rows of the dependent variable was kept fixed and the order of the rows of the predictor variables was permuted , times and a regression was run for each , random samples.
The significance level can then be determined by assessing the extremity of regression parameters relative to the , samples , random samples plus the original sample. Generating , random samples allows for determining p values with 10 -5 precision. Analyses were done in Matlab 8. Hence, these measures will also be investigated further later. Zero-order and partial correlations between math and standardized when applicable and raw test scores. Dec: Phonological decoding.
OOO: Odd-one-out test. Spatial Orient: Spatial Orientation. Att: Sustained attention. Stop sig.
R: Stop signal task Correct Rejection rate. Trail-A time: Trail-making A time. Com: symbolic number comparison accuracy score. Some number sense measures did show significant zero-order correlations with math.
These will also be investigated further below. Hence they were averaged to form a visual WM score. Hence, they were averaged to form a Verbal WM score. Hence, they were averaged to form a Phonological Decoding score. While there were no significant partial correlations between math and most number sense measures except symbolic number comparison RT, it is theoretically important to see their relation with math and related variables.
Descriptive statistics. Trail-A time: Trail-making A time in seconds. Hit: Sustained Attention Hit rate. Correlations for all number sense measures are also shown. All measures which showed significant partial correlations with math showed robust zero-order correlation with math except the stop signal task.
Descriptive statistics for number sense measures. COV: Coefficient of Variation in the three above tasks. Significant correlations are marked by big bold dots. Non-significant correlations are marked by small dots. Blue lines show confidence intervals for test scores and accuracy. Red lines show confidence intervals for median RT. Because of the lack of robust bootstrap correlation with math, the Stop Signal task was omitted from the initial potential predictor pool.
WM: visual memory. Spatial Orient. Significant p values are marked in red. Model parameters. The permutation test p value is shown next to confidence interval bars. Significant predictors are marked by red bars, non-significant predictors are marked by blue bars. Panels A—E show various models explained in the text. Panel C shows the best model.
In order to establish the potential individual importance of the above non-significant predictors, each of the non-significant predictors was entered into regressions one-by-one along with the five above-established significant predictors Dot matrix, visual WM, Reading, Spatial Orientation and Trail-making.
That is, in each step only a single, sixth variable was added to the above five significant predictors. Hence, these variables were also omitted from further analyses. The following steps examined the relevance of general IQ variables for the above model. It is important to emphasize that the order of entry is not important when using simultaneous regressions. Further, the significance of significant predictors did not change when Raven and WISC Block design were added to the model.
Notably, in all of the above analyses parametric, permutation and bootstrap procedures produced exactly the same outcome. The best model was also tested with Gender as an additional dichotomous dummy coded variable. The above demonstrates that the best math model was highly specific to mathematics and predicting reading performance would require a substantially different model. VIF values for all variables used ranged between 1.
While none of the number sense measures proved a reliable predictor of math performance it was nevertheless theoretically important to clarify their relation to math. The analysis started from number sense measures. Only regression models based solely on total accuracy data and RT COV identified significant predictors. Hence, the results below relate to these measures.
Only total symbolic comparison accuracy and Non-symbolic comparison COV showed significant connection to math. The R 2 value was much smaller than in the above analyses with additional variables. Results remained practically unchanged with only three number sense variables in regression.
M2 tested subitizing COV while M3 tested total non-symbolic task accuracy. M4 only included the two significant number sense measures. M11 added two of the above variables. M12 added all of the significant variables from the best model. Non-symbolic comparison COV invariably became non-significant when there was even a sole additional visuo-spatial predictor variable visuo-spatial WM; Dot Matrix; Spatial Orientation in the regression equation. Total symbolic comparison accuracy remained significant as long as visuo-spatial WM and reading were not added to the regression.
None of the number sense measures proved to be reliable when there were more than two non-number sense predictors in the model. In contrast, other variables were extremely robust. Model parameters for testing number sense variables. Panels A—D show various models explained in the text. Overall model R 2 and parametric and permutation testing p values are shown on the left of each panel.
While it was not the main objective of the current study, it is theoretically important to identify potential predictors of number sense variables. Details are described in the Supplementary Results. In summary, Sustained Attention emerged as the most robust predictor of number sense variables and Phonological Decoding and the Dot Matrix task were also predictors in some analyses. We contrasted the predictive power of various cognitive variables and several variables associated with a proposed number sense in a robust, permutation testing based framework in 9-year-old children with normal reading.
Verbal intelligence and phonological ability, visual STM and WM, spatial ability and trail-making task performance emerged as robust predictors of mathematical achievement. Non-verbal IQ measures were non-significant predictors in the above model and the model was highly specific to predicting mathematical performance. None of the number sense measures proved to be serious predictors of mathematical achievement. We propose an executive memory function centric model of mathematical expertise.
Based on our measures, we conclude that important processing nodes of this network are phonological decoding, verbal knowledge, visuo-spatial memory, spatial ability and general executive functioning measured by the trail-making task. This is in line with several studies cited in the Introduction.
Only spatial orientation but not symmetry score showed a relationship with math. This suggests that more active spatial processing components are likely to be related to math performance, probably because these are more related to spatially based mental operations required by mathematics. Our study included children with at least average reading skill. With regard to this it is important that the optimal model predicting reading achievement was substantially different from the model predicting mathematical achievement with only verbal IQ and phonological decoding predicting reading performance significantly.
Hence, while there is substantial shared variance between reading and mathematical performance, our data suggest that this shared variance relies on verbal IQ and phonological decoding which are equally important for both reading and mathematics. Recent cognitive neuroscience research on numerical cognition has shifted the focus of research to a putative magnitude representation supposedly core to mathematical function. These free sheets will help give your child a head start in mathematics.
Part 3, Introducing Addition and Subtraction Part 3 encourages children to learn addition and subtraction.
This series is available for download below and will help give them a real head start when they start school or will move them up a level as the pages will help consolidate the work already being learnt in class. Part 4, Introducing Multiplication and Division Part 4 introduces the concept of multiplication having the students describe numbers of objects, and grouping them.
This series is really fun to use and will give them a real head start when they start school or will move them ahead of others as the pages will help consolidate the work being learnt in class. The Beginner Mathematician series consists of four 32 page books and one 96 page book which can be downloaded as 4 parts above. The series is designed to help children learn how to count and write the numbers up to 20 as well as complete simple and beginning addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The books in this series are all a distinctive red colour.
Introducing Numbers is Book 1 in the Beginner Mathematician series. It emphasises the counting sequence 1 to After completing this book, children will be able to recognise and write each of these numbers and use them for counting objects. Introducing Arithmetic is Book 2 in the Beginner Mathematician series. It introduces the basic mathematical operations of addition, subtraction and multiplication. It focuses on the arithmetic operations of addition and subtraction.
After completing this book, students will be able to use a number line to carry out these operations and will gain increased confidence in dealing with numbers. It focuses on the arithmetic operations of multiplication and division and introduces fractions. After completing this book, students will understand what these concepts mean and how they are used. Part 1, Lets Learn Shapes Part 1 introduces a number of other topics that are important in mathematics such as drawing graphs and shapes.
However there are also excellent practise sheets on counting and ordering numbers. These books are a lot of fun to use and will give your child a head start at school. Part 2, Lets Learn Numbers Part 2 is concerned with counting numbers up to 20 and writing them in order. This topic is introduced in a number of interesting but different ways to help consolidate the concept. This series will help move them up a level as working through the pages will consolidate the work already being learnt in class.
Part 3, Lets Learn Simple Arithmetic Part 3 is helps consolidate the arithmetic concepts of addition and subtraction with many different and interesting examples to practise on. Working through the series will consolidate the work already being learnt in class or will introduce them to work being covered later in the year. This means that they will have a head start on others in the class. The Developing Mathematician series consists of three 64 page books to help children become more familiar and confident with numbers and arithmetic up to Initial work on the multiplication tables is also completed.
Children who fall behind in the early years will forever find it difficult to get back up to the rest of the class. These books ensure that they are equipped with the mathematical skills to progress further. The books in this series are all a distinctive yellow colour. Book 1 in the Developing Mathematician series emphasises numbers by comparing smaller and bigger numbers and providing practice for the writing of number words.
By the end of this book children will be able to recognise and write number words and recognise their values. It introduces numbers up to and looks at both 2D and 3D shapes. By the end of this book students will be able to calculate, write and order larger numbers and recognise how they are made up. Lets Find All The Right Numbers is Book 3 in the Developing Mathematician series and focuses on the 1 to 5 times tables as well as continuing with the general arithmetic operations of addition and subtraction up to After completing this 64 page book, students will have increased confidence in dealing with numbers.
Part 4, Lets Learn Bigger Numbers Part 4 starts work on numbers between 20 and , what they mean and how to write them. Part 5, Lets Learn Harder Arithmetic Part 5 introduces addition and subtraction of numbers between 0 and It also teaches how addition and multiplication are related. Part 6, Lets Learn Multiplication Part 6 has children starting learning the multiplication tables but also relates each to the products to different examples.
It then shows how multiplication and addition are related to division. They are ideally used by 6 — 8 year olds. This series will help move them to the next level, as working through the pages will consolidate the work already being learnt in class. The Advancing Mathematician series consists of three 64 page books to help children consolidate the basics.
While a calculator has its place in mathematics teaching, children should not have to rely on them for simple computations or for the 1 to 5 times tables.