Pre-school numeracy play as a predictor of children’s attitudes towards mathematics at age 10
Numeracy activities in early childhood have been linked to children’s mathematical performance in subsequent years. However, few studies have examined associations between early numeracy play and children’s subsequent attitudes towards mathematics. This study draws on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011 assessment to provide a retrospective snapshot of pre-school numeracy play reported by the parents of 10-year-old children (N = 4560). Most children were found to have engaged frequently in some form of early numeracy activity. However, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had less regular engagement with numeracy play, while spatial play (e.g. building blocks) was less common among girls. The extent to which children engaged in pre-school numeracy play was significantly associated with greater confidence and (for children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds) liking of mathematics at age 10, controlling for other factors. The results highlight socioeconomic and gendered differences in children’s early activities about which policy-makers, educators and parents should be aware. They also suggest the potential role of numeracy play in fostering positive attitudes towards mathematics, which should be considered amid efforts to increase participation in science, technology, engineering and maths domains.