Researchers find parents talk more about math with baby boys than girls

A baby playing with blocks. (Getty Images)
A baby playing with blocks. (Getty Images)

Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have found baby boys hear more about numbers and math concepts than infant girls.

The findings were recently published in the journal of Infant and Child Development.

The authors found that parents used an average of about 4 math concept words during a 15-minute play session. And while the use of these words increased as all of the infants got older, the growth was larger for baby boys.

"I think it's just something to be aware of, especially parents of girls," said Meredith Rowe, a study co-author and professor of early learning and development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "Because it seems like this stuff accumulates over time. And puts young girls at risk not being as strong in math or not thinking they're as strong in math."

Rowe added that a parent's socioeconomic status did not appear to make a difference in how often they talked about math concepts with their young children.

She says increasing the amount of math concepts you talk about with your kids can be as easy as counting what's around you or comparing groups.

The study's authors observed a diverse group of 50 Boston-area caregivers and their infants as they grew from 10 to 18 months old. They classified a number of items as math concepts, such as counting or using words like "many."

Rowe stressed that the study was limited in scope. She hopes to continue the work with co-author Kathryn Leech and explore the long-term affects of these gender-based differences.


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Carrie Jung Senior Reporter, Education
Carrie is a senior education reporter.



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