Math Skills Can Be Passed On by Parents

November 4, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. inherit / ɪnˈhɛr ɪt  / (v.) – to receive something, such as a certain skill or ability, from a parent
Example: I inherited my mother’s artistic sense. 

2. innate / ɪˈneɪt  / (adj.) – natural and unlearned
Example: The student’s innate talent in writing impressed the professor.  

3. competence / ˈkɒm pɪ təns  / (n.) – the quality of being skilled in something
Example: His competence as a writer earned him several publishing projects. 

4. cognitive / ˈkɒg nɪ tɪv  / (adj.) – relating to mental activities
Example: We studied cognitive development in our psychology class. 

5. account for / əˈkaʊntˈfɔr / (phrasal v.) – to provide an explanation for something 
Example: Air pollution in the city accounted for the increasing cases of lung diseases. 


Read the text below.
Children inherit math skills from their parents, study claims. 

A research by the University of Pittsburgh found that parents who perform well in math pass their skills on to their children. Participants of the study included fifty-four students between ages five and eight, and 51 parents with at least a high school diploma.  

The study measured the participants’ abilities in specific areas, such as numerical computations, number-fact recall, and word problem solving. Findings revealed that innate math abilities of parents reflect on their children’s skills. Likewise, the mathematical competence levels of children and their parents tend to be similar.  The study’s findings may verify the intergenerational transmission, which refers to the influence of parents on their children’s cognitive skills. 

Aside from the acquisition of math skills, anxiety toward math is also believed to be passed on. Another study from the University of Chicago found that children whose parents feel nervous about math tend to become math-anxious as well, particularly when parents frequently offer assistance in their math homework.  

These findings imply that parents’ attitude toward math can influence their children’s performance in the subject. Math-anxious parents may not be effective in teaching math concepts and correcting errors. Thus, researchers concluded that the correlation between children’s and parents’ math anxiety is a result of attitude rather than genetics. 

Dr. Melissa E. Libertus, head of the University of Pittsburgh research, added that environmental factors also account for a child’s math abilities. Thus, education experts recommend learning methods such as explaining how equations work to children rather than memorizing the answers, practicing through demo videos, and teaching math through games.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the study’s finding that math skills are passed on from parent to child? Why or why not?
·         What other factors can influence skill development? Discuss. 

Discussion B

·         Which do you think is better, natural skills or developed skills? Why?
·         What skill would you like to develop? Explain. 

November 4, 2016