Poor motor skills in toddlers hint at poor math abilities

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London | Updated: September 12, 2015 7:51:45 PM

Parents, take note! Two-year-olds with poor motor function also exhibit poor mathematical skills, a new study shows.

Parents, take note! Two-year-olds with poor motor function also exhibit poor mathematical skills, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Stavanger’s Norwegian Reading Centre have established that there is a correlation between motor skills and mathematical skills in two-year-olds.

Associate Professor Elin Reikeras of the Norwegian Reading Centre is one of the researchers involved in the Stavanger Project, which is monitoring the development of over 1,000 children aged two to ten years in kindergartens and schools in Stavanger.

The vast majority of Norwegian children start kindergarten at the age of 1. The study into the correlation between mathematical skills and motor function uses data from structured observations of children between the ages of two and nine months.

The motor skills the researchers looked at were whether the child had mastered activities such as putting on clothes, doing jigsaws, eating with a spoon and fork, using scissors, walking around the room without bumping into things, using playground equipment and throwing and catching a ball.

The researchers divided the children into three groups according to their level of motor skills: poor, average and strong.

Different mathematical skills were examined, such as if the two-year-olds were able to use their fingers to show how old they were, if they could use the shape sorter box, play picture lotto, sort toys or objects (according to colour, size or category, for example), demonstrate the difference between big and small through the use of body language or words, use numerals (“I have a thousand cars!”) and draw a tadpole.

“Children with good motor skills were more mathematically advanced in all of the areas that were studied, and those with average scores in the motor skills group also had average scores for mathematical skills,” said Reikeras.

“There were big differences in mathematical skill levels between the children with the strongest and poorest motor skills.

“Most of the children who had poor motor skills were not very good at mathematics. We cannot comment on causality, only that the level of mathematical proficiency can be reflected in motor skills,” said Reikeras.

As the study has only looked at two-year-olds, the researchers do not currently know if children continue to develop within these two areas and if the correlation continues to be as strong later on.

The results were published in the European Journal of Early Childhood Education.

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