to support the effects of parental modeling, reporting a relation between parental participation in number activities and children’s involvement in similar activities. Moreover, they found that parental reports of children’s number activities at home predicted their scores on a standardized test of early mathematical ability.
Several studies suggest that exposure to the language and symbol system of mathematics powerfully extends the universal starting points of children’s quantitative knowledge and contributes to observed differences in mathematics competence. This is true in terms of exposure to the language of mathematics in preschool (Klibanoff et al., 2006) as well as at home between ages 14 and 30 months (Levine et al., in preparation). These studies show that the range of number words used in these settings is enormous. For example, in the home study, a longitudinal project in which families were visited every 4 months for five 90-minute sessions during which they were asked to go about their normal activities, the use of number words ranged from a low of 3 to a high of 175 instances. Similarly, in the classroom studies, the amount of number input provided by teachers during a 1-hour period that included circle time ranged from 1 to 104 coded instances.
While research suggests that families do incorporate mathematics into their everyday lives, they may also need reminders of the importance of mathematics. An observational study of 39 preschoolers and their families (Tudge and Doucet, 2004) found that the children engaged in a very low rate of explicit mathematics lessons over the course of a day and also demonstrated low levels of mathematics-related play. Of the mathematics lessons that were observed, the most common were lessons involving numbering, and the most common types of mathematical play involved toys that featured numbers (puzzles, computer programs, etc.). Furthermore, parents may overestimate their children’s mathematical skills. Fluck and colleagues (2005) found that parents believed their children had a much better grasp of the concept of cardinality (beyond mere counting) than the children actually displayed.
Evidence suggests that SES differences in children’s mathematics competence are linked to parallel differences in experiences provided in the home. For parents in some low-SES families, involvement in fostering the acquisition of mathematics skills in their children may be hampered by multiple factors. Poverty and uncertainty related to inadequate resources and residential instability can easily become all-consuming, leaving room for little else. Parents in low-SES families, though concerned about their