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Self-Discipline Predicts Math Learning and School Success

We’ve had a lively discussion in the DreamBox offices this week after someone circulated a recent Science Daily article “Self-regulation Game Predicts Kindergarten Achievement.” The article describes early childhood development research (by Claire Ponitz from the University of Virginia and Megan McClelland of Oregon State University) that assessed the effectiveness of a game called the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders (HTKS) task. The researchers discovered that children who did well on this this simple, 5-minute self-regulation game in the fall achieved strong scores in reading, vocabulary, and math in the spring, compared to students who had low performance on the task. The research also showed that the children who performed well on the task scored 3.4 months better than their peers who performed at average levels on mathematics learning.

Reigniting the math learning debate

This sparked a follow-up — someone else shared the TED conference video “Don’t eat the marshmallow yet!” In it Joachim de Posada describes a well-known experiment on delayed gratification and how self-control can predict future success. It’s worth a watch, even aside from the video of adorable kids trying their hardest not to eat a marshmallow!

TED Conference talk: “Don’t eat the marshmallow yet”

With so much cultural emphasis on instant gratification — peer pressure to have/wear the trendy thing, media exposure to a huge number of ad messages, easy credit (well, maybe it’s a little less easy now) — it’s no wonder we all feel the pressure to have it all and have it now. How can parents teach self discipline, control, and patience in this environment? (Research suggests that many parents feel this is an area they haven’t done well with.) Smarter folks than I have wondered this too, so I went looking for a good resource on this topic. Now it’s my turn to share: here’s a great article on “How to Teach Kids Self-Discipline.” There’s plenty of insightful, common sense advice, plus a few other good resources if you want to learn more.