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Cognitive interventions at the beginning of the school: What can they tell us about the future?

Mon, April 15, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Bay (Level 1), Bayview B


Recent studies have shown that non-symbolic abilities predict children’s mathematics achievement. The relationship between non-symbolic magnitudes and formal math acquisition in children is still a debated issue in the study of cognition. However, our work suggests that our representation of approximate number (based in Approximate Number System, ANS) is a key point for the future deployment of formal math abilities. If this is the case, training in approximate number at initial stages of development could show benefits in math learning and also in general academic achievement.

In this talk, I will present data from an intervention we have done in 2013 in Uruguay training the ANS of 800 first grades from diverse socio-economic backgrounds (SES) that were part of the Uruguayan one-laptop-per-child (OLPC) program. We analyze those data in relation with their school trajectories over 5 years of primary school.

We aimed at determining the cognitive abilities related to math that predicts their grades. Our results show that first grade’s teachers base their grades (specifically when they decide that kid has to repeat first grade) in two issues of math performance: number recognition and simple additions. However, the real challenge is to predict those cases that teachers are not capable of detect. That means, those kids who barely pass the first year but they will repeat at least one year in the future. Our data show that ANS performance seems to be good candidate for detect those difficult cases.

Our findings support the idea that cognitive tasks-games could be used to identify those kids that will need help in advance and raises the possibility that these types of tasks could be implemented by the educational system. One of the contributions that we could made to education is developing these kind of tests keeping in mind that teachers should be the final users.