Tag Archives: gender differences

Math Talk: Why you should be co-viewing “Team Umizoomi” with your daughter

28 Feb

Most of you probably know me as a researcher who is passionate about using media and technology to enhance learning for kids. That’s true. But I also happen to have a particular affinity for math-learning in the early years. In grad school, my adviser was Herb Ginsburg, who co-wrote a preschool math curriculum, and I spent many years working with teachers to implement it. Now that I’m a parent of preschoolers, I look for math everywhere, and take every opportunity to talk about math concepts with my kids. I was always good at math in school, and have no fear at facing it; however, I understand for many American women, I might be in the minority about this.

Nonetheless, I was surprised to read in the Motherlode column of the NY Times that researchers have recently discovered that mothers talk about math less to their daughters than their sons. In other words, the Moms in this study spent more time with their sons going over principles that involve counting or cardinality (how much). The researchers did not say that this lack of early math talk is the cause for why girls tend to be less confident in math, but they do suggest that “familiarity breeds liking”.

Team Umizoomi

My blood pressure tends to rise just little every time I read a research study that puts blame on parents. After all, parents are an just easy target. In reality, this research did not even find a connection between math performance and math talk by mothers; it simply said that mothers talk less about math to their daughters. And we all know that a variety of factors could influence math confidence, but none of those were investigated. So no pressure, Moms, but apparently you subconsciously aren’t expecting your daughter to be an engineer, an architect, or an astrophysicist. That’s interesting. I’m proud to claim I am expecting my daughter to be one of those. Or maybe all.

I felt like this was a good opportunity for me to point out how nicely Nickelodeon’s Team Umizoomi works for co-viewing. Both my son AND my daughter thoroughly enjoy this show, and (thanks to their mom’s co-viewing) find the math challenges on the show to be easily accomplished. My daughter quickly learned how to count backwards from 10 due to the show’s theme song. She looks for math patterns every where we go, can identify all her basic shapes, and has a tendency to read out loud the street address of every apartment building we walk by. Perhaps it’s not necessarily co-viewing this TV show that makes her enjoy math – perhaps it is just her math-loving mother. But in any case, co-viewing Team Umizoomi has given us a platform to work on this school topic together, in a non-threatening way. In addition, there is more good news – several new math TV show are on their way, starting in the fall on PBS. Look for one aimed at preschoolers, and another aimed at kids in early elementary school.

Go forth, ye parents, and co-view a math show TV show with your daughter!

Wanted: More Playful Parents

21 Feb

Dad girl videogameSome recent research has cropped up about co-playing video games that I’d like to share. Both yield some results that we can learn some lessons from.

First, a recent article in the Journal of Adolescent Health reported that girls benefit more than boys from co-playing video games. This article first caught my eye in a blog post by Geek Dad. The researchers surveyed 287 adolescents and their parents about their game-playing habits. First, analyzing all kids in the study, it was found that time spent playing video games was associated with several negative outcomes, including heightened internalizing and aggressive behavior and lowered prosocial behavior. The big difference came when looking at girls versus boys who co-played with parents: Girls who co-played age-appropriate games with their parents were found to have better behavior, felt more connected to their families, and had stronger mental health. Parents did not co-play very often, but when they did, it made a difference.

Another interesting piece about co-playing video games appeared on the Joan Ganz Cooney Center blog, where Mindy Brooks described some formative research being done on an intergenerational computer literacy game. According to her description of this pilot-testing, most parents did not understand their roles in game-play, and felt obligated to “teach” instead of play. The game producers revised the game to include a video tutorial at the beginning, a point system to monitor each players’ progress, and several clickable support items. These changes helped parents play more and teach less.

Taken together, these two recent reports indicate that parents need to loosen up! Playing more with your kids not only has positive outcomes for your kids, but makes your experience more enjoyable for yourself. Taking time out of your day to co-play video games with your kids – especially girls, apparently – has some very positive effects.

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