Kids able to do the maths if they come on board

20 November 2013 - 02:34 By KATHARINE CHILD
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

It is how a child counts that counts. This is the conclusion of Boston College professors Elida Laski and Robert Siegler.

The two academics recently researched whether children develop maths skills from board games.

"Board games help children understand the magnitude of numbers by improving their ability to estimate, count and identify numbers," said Laski. But "the benefits depended on how children count during the game".

In the study, two groups of children played a 100-square board game. They were required to throw a die and move their piece by the corresponding number of squares.

In one study group, each time a child threw a die he started counting from zero. This was found to teach children very little about mathematics.

In the other group, the children "counted on". If the child's piece was on space nine, and the child had thrown a six, he had to count six spaces, starting at nine.

"What's most important is whether you count within a larger series of numbers or simply start from one each time," said Laski.

"We found that it's the way that children count - whether the counting procedure forces them to attend to the numbers in a board game - that yields real benefits in the use of numbers," said Laski.

"By counting on, parents and their children can see some real benefits . It's a simple way to enhance any game they have at home and still have fun playing it."