Every year when the national examination results are released, there is a noted poor performance in mathematics and sciences.
This year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) results, which are expected in a few days time may may not turn out differently as the perception that mathematics and science are tough to crack still persists among teachers and students in Kenyan schools.
But following a new study by University of Chicago researchers, all this is bound to change if we nurture the students’ spatial skills – the ability to perceive space – from an early age.
According to the researchers who carried out the study, the key to nurturing the skill required to do better in mathematics and sciences is the introduction of puzzles earlier in the child’s life.
The study published in the journal Development Science found that children who played puzzles between ages 2 to 4 had better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months old.
Psychologist Susan Levine, the study’s lead author and an expert on children s’ mathematical skills development, found that children “who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not, on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes,” according to the university’s website.
According to the study, early puzzle play also may help kids develop the ability to mentally transform shapes, which is “an important predictor” of whether older students will take courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and pursue degrees and careers in those subjects, the study found.
The study was done by videotaping 53 pairs of children and parents from diverse socio-economic backgrounds for four months between 26 and 46 months of age.
The study also noted that parents from higher social-economic backgrounds tended to expose their children to puzzles more than those in the lower bracket.
Concerning gender boys tended to play more difficult puzzles than girls and boys’ parents “provided more spatial language during puzzle play and were more engaged in play than the parents of girls.”
Also, boys “performed better than girls on a mental transformation task given at 54 months of age.”
By Patrick Wameyo Otundo