Series: Hear from the Experts

Talking with Children Sets the Groundwork for Mathematical Learning

Talking with Children Sets the Groundwork for Mathematical Learning

A new book, Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain, explains the importance of regularly talking with children ages 0-3—the time during which the brain develops most rapidly. Ensuring that these conversations take place will help children progress with their language, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills.

The book is written by Dana Suskind, a surgeon who performs cochlear implant surgery for patients with hearing problems. She came to notice that while many of her youngest patients flourished after their surgery, others struggled to develop language skills. This trend seemed to coincide with a study (The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 [pdf]) showing that by the end of age 3, children from families of high socioeconomic status will have heard 30 million more words than those in more trying living situations.

The study suggests that children make important cognitive connections simply through observation and mimicry; therefore, those who do not hear as much have fewer chances to learn. Creating these habits early on has implications for early math learning, as well.

“At its heart, mathematical thinking is being logical, then describing and categorizing things with increasing precision,