There is a benefit to having more than one child, aside from the obvious. Parents who choose to have no more than one will argue – of course. And they look like they have a point, with their brushed hair and ability to construct coherent sentences. However, they are missing out on one crucial advantage of having extra kids and that is that siblings can help other children in their family learn math.
A recent study delved into how the process of teaching math to one another can encourage siblings to develop a deeper understanding of the subject. Canadian researchers analysed 39 sets of siblings who had a two-year age gap. The children were examined when they were aged two and four, and later when they were aged four and six.
Researchers observed each family for a total of 540 minutes throughout the duration of their study and noted the obvious math teaching moments. Older siblings were teaching 80% of the time, while younger ones taught the remaining 20%.
“We theorized that the sibling relationship provides an important context for the development of mathematical understanding,” the lead author of the study, said.
The researchers found that informal at-home interactions help both the children who are teaching math and the ones who are learning the lessons to better understand mathematics.
“By the time children enter school, they have already become familiar with certain mathematical concepts because they spend so much time playing together at home with toys and materials like construction games, blocks and memory cards,” the lead author said.
The study’s authors also discovered some distinct learning patterns. In earlier years the children were engaged in teaching numbers, geometry and measurement. When the kids grew older they taught and learned concepts related to grouping, relations and operations in the second.
“This study proves that children learn about math during experiences and within contexts meaningful to them — not just at school. In early childhood, informal play in the home is just as important as formal teaching in the classroom,” the lead author of the study said.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of two. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.