Posted by: laughs4dads | June 28, 2010

Out for the Count

It is obvious that The Count on Sesame Street should be fired. This article, in the May 4 New York Post explains why:

“Tot TV Linked to Poor Math
WASHINGTON — Toddlers who watch too much TV may struggle in school later, with measurably lower scores in math, and they may get bullied more than other children, Canadian researchers reported yesterday.

‘The results support previous suggestions that early childhood television exposure undermines attention,’ wrote Linda Pagani and colleagues of the Institut de la Statistique du Quebec in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.”

To be fair to The Count, the kids in the study probably had one strike against them already because they were trying to do math in French. Also, the extensive New York Post coverage (the two paragraphs above comprise the entire article) does not tell us a number of pertinent facts:

  1. What were the other kids doing while the future math dummies were watching
    TV? Playing with an abacus?
  2. What TV shows were the kids watching? “Le Jersey Shore?”

To find the answers, I took a very unusual step. I actually went to the source: the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. This is not as exciting to read as you might think. For instance, in the “abstract,” I found this explanation of the methodology behind the study:

“Main Exposure: Parent-reported data on weekly hours of television exposure at 29 and 53 months of age. We conducted a series of ordinary least-squares regressions in which children’s academic, psychosocial, and lifestyle characteristics are linearly regressed on early and preschool television exposure.”

It took me a couple of minutes to realize that this wasn’t in French. I finally figured out that they call it an “abstract” because it is simply a string of words put together in random order like an abstract painting. It’s not supposed to make any logical sense.

Of course, I probably would know what the heck they were saying if I hadn’t watched so much TV when I was 29 months old. 

It’s a good thing I have the New York Post to boil this stuff down for me.

And thank goodness for Newsweek. In an online article from last December, this totally obsolete publication tells us exactly how to counteract the loss of math skills caused by too much TV. Simply tell your kids to use their fingers.

No, not to count. We wouldn’t need scientific studies to tell us that. What we need are researchers from the University of Chicago to tell us that hand gestures–any hand gestures–may help kids be better at math.

In a study that was much more important than the one in the Post (I know this because the Newsweek post had many more paragraphs, and also because the study was in English), researchers showed that when kids made hand gestures while learning how to solve certain math problems, they were able to better retain those lessons. Interestingly, the gestures didn’t even need to be related to the problems.

My daughter, Casey, seemed to know this instinctively. I remember when she was in elementary school, she would frequently use hand gestures while doing her math homework. True, the gestures seemed to be directed more toward her math teacher than any particular arithmetical function and, also true, she never did get very good in math.

But she can certainly use her fingers to count to one, if you get my drift.

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