It’s one of the biggest debates going on among early childhood development experts: Is it more important for kindergartners to focus on academics and learn their ABC’s and numbers? Or spend more time on social and emotional issues, like how to play nice and pay attention?
Recent research by a UC Irvine education professor shows that math skills among kindergartners turn out to be a key predictor for future academic success.
Professor Greg Duncan and his colleagues analyzed studies conducted with close to 20,000 kindergartners, assessing their knowledge of math, literacy and other skills, including their ability to stay on task and make friends. The studies followed the kindergartners for several years through elementary school, testing them in reading and math.
Even after accounting for differences in IQ and family income, Duncan found that those who learned the most math in kindergarten tended to have the highest math and reading scores years later.
“It was very surprising,” said Duncan, whose research appears in a new book. “Everyone says reading is most important, and if a child can read by third grade, the chance of dropping out of school is so much lower. But it was math that stood out as serving the kids best in promoting later achievement. Reading was next most important, and then attention skills were third most important.”