LJMU researchers have been awarded £168,000 funding from the Nuffield Foundation following the success of a two-year study which showed that parents discussing language at home could support early numeracy skills.
The study, carried out by the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology’s Dr Fiona Simmons, Dr Anne-Marie Adams and Dr Elena Soto-Calvo studied more than 200 children from pre-school to the end of reception and examined the influence of their home learning environment, language and cognitive abilities on their later number skills.
Three types of home learning experiences were monitored: number-focused experiences that involved number and quantity, meaning–focused home literacy experiences, involving interactions around the meaning of words, sentences or stories, such as shared reading; and code-focused home literacy experiences, involving emphasis on phonics – letter-sound relationships – and phonology – the sounds within spoken words.
Code-focused practices were found to be more powerful predictors of early number skills than meaning-focused activities or number experiences.
Dr Simmons said: “The findings would suggest that discussing sounds in words and identifying letters supports early language skills which in turn supports early numeracy. These experiences might also help children get to grips with the idea that symbols have meaning, which in turn develops both their literacy and numeracy skills.
“Code focused experiences can be informal, such as identifying sounds in rhymes and songs or pointing out letters in environmental print or books.”
The new funding from the Nuffield Foundation will now follow the children as they progress through Key Stage 1. It will examine the extent that the home learning environment has a longer term impact on both mathematics and literacy.