Play improves children's mathematical competence
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More research details are available upon request.
Spark: Mathematical skills have become increasingly important in this digital age. However, many children struggle with maths learning since early years. It is urgent to improve children's motivation for maths learning and their mathematical competence through fun and playful activities.
Gap in research: Previous studies on guided-play and home mathematics environment demonstrate the potential to improve maths skills via play activities but we don't know the mechanisms behind play and whether it is really play that is doing the work.
Research context: The current study examined N=4000+ children in the German context.
Playing number games like dice, construction games like LEGO and letter games more frequently at age 5 could directly improve children's maths score at age 6.
Playing number games more frequently at age 5 could improve children's verbal working memory and fluid reasoning skills at age 6, thereby promoting mathematics competence at age 6.
Playing sorting games more frequently at age 5 could improve children's perceptual speed, thereby promoting mathematics competence at age 6.
Other games like puzzles also had unique impact on children's mathematical competence.
Take-home message: Playing number, construction, letter, sorting and puzzle games more frequently could transcend the socioeconomic gap in learning. That is, regardless of income levels, social class, parental education levels, playing games more frequently enables children to gain higher attainment in maths.