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Approximate arithmetic training improves informal math performance in low achieving preschoolers


Recent studies suggest that practice with approximate and non-symbolic arithmetic problems improves the math performance of adults, school aged children, and preschoolers. However, the relative effectiveness of approximate arithmetic training compared to available educational games, and the type of math skills that approximate arithmetic targets are unknown. The present study was designed to (1) compare the effectiveness of approximate arithmetic training to two commercially available numeral and letter identification tablet applications and (2) to examine the specific type of math skills that benefit from approximate arithmetic training. Preschool children (n = 158) were pseudo-randomly assigned to one of three conditions: approximate arithmetic, letter identification, or numeral identification. All children were trained for 10 short sessions and given pre and post tests of informal and formal math, executive function, short term memory, vocabulary, alphabet knowledge, and number word knowledge. We found a significant interaction between initial math performance and training condition, such that children with low pretest math performance benefited from approximate arithmetic training, and children with high pretest math performance benefited from symbol identification training. This effect was restricted to informal, and not formal, math problems. There were also effects of gender, socio-economic status, and age on post-test informal math score after intervention. A median split on pretest math ability indicated that children in the low half of math scores in the approximate arithmetic training condition performed significantly better than children in the letter identification training condition on post-test informal math problems when controlling for pretest, age, gender, and socio-economic status. Our results support the conclusion that approximate arithmetic training may be especially effective for children with low math skills, and that approximate arithmetic training improves early informal, but not formal, math skills. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States
State(s)/Territories/Tribal Nation(s):
North Carolina

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