Elementary math instruction is hugely important, research shows.

Learning math early on is important for student success

One of the skills needed to be successful in the 21st century, elementary math is becoming an increasingly important part of early childhood education.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the math skills that students learn at a young age build a foundation for future learning endeavors and can be a good indicator of whether or not young people will be able to meet and overcome new challenges as they mature.

"Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement," Greg Duncan, a researcher at Northwestern University, said in a statement.

An educational study of 35,000 preschoolers conducted by Duncan revealed that the importance of early math skills is paramount. According to the research, students who enter kindergarten with elementary math skills and are able to build on those abilities are much more likely to experience subsequent academic success, regardless of whether or not they are dealing with social or emotional problems.

"We find the single most important factor in predicting later academic achievement is that children begin school with a mastery of early math and literacy concepts," Duncan said.

A great deal of research and expert opinion echoes Duncan's findings. Although math teaching strategies in the classroom have evolved over the decades to give students a greater chance of success, parents can do a great deal to help their children at home by talking about numbers and mathematics.

There are a variety of simple math activities that parents can employ to engage their children and prepare them for elementary math. For example, parents of young kids can point out numbers on signs when walking or driving. It's also important to insert numbers into everyday conversations, asking children how many toys they plan on playing with or how many cars are in the driveway.

With parental help, teachers can build on these essential math abilities by introducing children to key mathematical concepts and fostering problem-solving skills at school. Educational videos and adaptive learning programs can also improve the math abilities of students who are growing up in an increasingly digitized world.

According to NAEYC, children show a natural interest in mathematics at a young age, and it's important that parents and teachers take advantage of this critical time in a child's education to build the foundation that will allow that interest and engagement to continue well into adulthood.

If parents and teachers get the conversation about mathematics going and continue to integrate instruction into students' lives, young children will be put on the path to success in the 21st century.