Effect of Learning Environment on Child Arithmetic Skills

09 Apr 2018

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The main aim of this experiment is to find out whether learning environments will affect children’s arithmetic skills. The hypothesis is children in kindergarten will performed better in arithmetic skills than children receiving home-schooling (N=40). These 40 children will be categorize into 2 groups, Boys and Girls and according to their learning environments, they are sub-grouped into kindergarten and home learning environments. Two different arithmetic tasks were carried out to assess the children skills. The experiment lasted for 12 weeks and at the end of the last week, all the scores were tabulated for the groups. A factorial between design was used in this experiment The statistical analysis yielded support for the hypothesis that children who study in kindergarten score better than children who study at home. However, due to lack of generalisation to population, further replication of the study is recommended with adequate sample size.

How Learning Environments Affect Children Arithmetic Skills

Acquiring basic literacy skills bring about a significant change to the advances in research and educational practices. The preschooler years are viewed as the point whereby those kids are at their crucial point to learn the basic abilities of learning in how to read and write. So there is a dilemma for parents whether they should send their child to kindergarten or they should go along with homeschooling.

Children tend to learn numbers counting before language acquisition and formal education (Lipton & Spelke, 2003; Xu, Spelke, & Goddard, 2005). As the child progress, his numerical accuracy gradually refined throughout his childhood until he gained more insightful knowledge in later year. (Halberda & Feigenson, 2008). Subsequently, with language acquisition, children will understand the numbers in words and break them in smaller groups (Wynn, 1996), that are within their counting range and gradually move outside of the range to know more numbers (Lipton & Spelke, 2006).

Talking about cognitive development in children, Jean Piaget (1896) had devoted all his life to study how children think and not to just what children know. Piaget believes that children are able to seek understanding of the world through the process of assimilation and accommodation. Therefore, Piaget placed great emphasize on cognitive development associated with the experience and not social interaction.

Another perspective of cognitive development is a Russian psychologist Lev Vygosky(1896). Vygosky focused on culture and society when it comes to cognitive learning ability. He believed that children learn differently when they are learning independent as compared to learning under the guidance of a more capable partner. This is what he called ‘zone of proximal development”. In conclusion, Vygosky believed that cognitive development is affected by social interaction as compared to be independent. The difference in how Piaget and Vygotsky’s approaches to children cognitive development are the concept of individualistic and social processes.

On a research study by Rea and Reys (1970), before children start to enrol in formal education, they are equipped with little of mathematical understanding .Children from early age is constantly practicing their counting skill. Geary (2004)stated that children's counting abilities could be seen as a combination of inherent constraints and inductions based on counting experiences

Seo and Ginsburg (2004) studied the types of informal mathematical activities which four- and five-year-old children express in natural settings during free play. Children demonstrated five mathematical categories; classification activities, magnitude activities, enumeration activities, dynamics and pattern and shape activities. According to Sarama and Clements (2009), children construct mathematics notions as they get actively engaged in the following sorts of play: sensorimotor or manipulative play, symbolic constructive play, symbolic dramatic play and games with rules. Children getting involved in play use it as a means to get them in problem solving situations to develop their thinking on mathematical ideas and procedures.

Informal mathematical knowledge undergoes considerable development during the preschool years and provides a basis for the later acquisition of formal mathematics in the school context (Clements and Sarama 2007). In this sense, successful early childhood instruction builds on children’s informal knowledge and supports the linkage of this prior thinking to more analytical mathematical representations, while taking into account diversity in terms of language, culture, needs and interests. Children possess informal knowledge of many complex mathematical ideas, enjoy the challenges of playing with these complex ideas and, with adult or peer guidance, they can achieve greater understanding than previously expected (Ginsburg, Greenes and Balfanz 2003).

It was hypothesized in this study that children who receive education in kindergarten performed better in their arithmetic skills as to children who are receiving their education at home. Another hypothesis in this study is that boys in both school and home will score higher than girls in home and school environment in the assessment test.



There will be a total of 40 toddlers involve in this experiment and they are staying at the same community area. They will be divided into 10 male and 10 female toddlers will attend the designated kindergarten while the remaining toddlers will be receiving home schooling at their own respective homes.The age of the toddler will be 5 years old for both genders to ensure fairness of their learning capability. The two different teaching environments that are set for this experiment will be at a kindergarten or at the toddlers’ homes


Math ability task. Math ability was measured using the Early Number Concepts component of the British Ability Scales II (Elliot et al., 1996). This math test comprises 24 items that assess various basic numerical competencies through four items (Recognizing numbers names and numerals, identifying quantitative relationships and matching corresponding

Number estimation task Three number lines were used: 0 –10, 0 –20 and 0 –100. Each line was 25-cm long, with 0 on the left end and 10, 20, or 100 on the right end, depending on the scale.


The 20 children will be divided into 2 groups according to their genders and in each group, they will be further split in another two groups, based on their learning environments kindergarten or home schooling.

The children were instructed to follow the instructions in accordance to each task. The children are shown pictures and they were told to use pencil to circle the correct answer in the given questions. Next, they were told to match the same shapes from a group of mixed shapes of all sizes. Lastly, they were given simple basic addition and subtraction problems to solve and verbally voice out the answer. The total scores for the worksheet will be 20 marks.


A factorial between groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to investigate the effects of gender and learning environments on children’s arithmetic skills. Shapiro-Wilk and Levene’s test were used to evaluate the assumptions of normality and homogeneity of variance respectively. Neither was violated. Levene’s statistics for the test of equality is non-significant with F (3, 36) = .679, p=.571.

The results for ANOVA was statically significant with children who attend kindergarten performed better than children who did not attend kindergarten with F (1, 36) = 8.112, p=.001, Õ²2= .184, as well as statistically significant main effect for practice, F( 1, 36) = 1.073, p=.307, Õ²2= .029.

However, there is no significant interaction indicated that the effect of different learning environments on children’s arithmetic skills are associated with gender differences, F(1,36)= 1.00,p=0.01. The nature of the interaction is shown in Figure 1.


This study aims to find out whether 5-year old children who attend kindergarten tend to have better arithmetic skills than children who have home schooling. This is a double blind experiment whereby both experimenter and children are unaware of what are there being tested, this is to protect the experiment from having the observer-expectancy effect. It was hypothesized that children who attend kindergarten tend to have higher scores than those children who have home schooling, and it was supported by the data using two-way analysis of variances (ANOVA). The data showed that there is a significant difference of the scores between the two learning environments.

The two approaches that Piaget and Vygotsky had come across with are closely associated with the type of learning environments which children learn their cognitive skills in both kindergarten and home schooling. Children who attend kindergarten tend to be following Vygotsky’s concept of ‘zone of proximal development whereby children are able to learn under an adult’s supervision while children who receive educations at home from their parents, the home-schoolers are moving towards Piaget’s teaching as the children depend on themselves to gain knowledge about what is happening around them.

As the child progresses from infants, his/her ability to learn also progresses along with the growth. Infants demonstrated word segmentation ability when adults were talking to them. When they reach the preschool age, environment play a significant role in their learning ability. At this age group, they are prone to pick up new information quickly even though it is an adult conversation (Whitehurst & Valdez-Menchaca, 1988). So, the new information that the child had picked up, if the learning environment and the caregivers reinforces them to gain a better understanding of the things around them, the child will be more advanced in learning new skills.

Therefore, in order for child to acquire good arithmetic skills, they can be exposed to more numbers-related information and problems and a positive reinforcement learning environment to gain better understanding of arithmetic problems.

However, despite the fact children at the early onset toddlers’ age they are constantly using their arithmetic skills during their playtime with other children such as counting the numbers in their group and dividing themselves up for their games, but parents’ are always looking for educational videos to stimulate those children’s intellectual development at home(McCormick, 1998),which indeed raises the children’s academic achievement but it lowers their expectancies of success and pride in accomplishments in their future (Deborah.,et,al., 1995).

Studies are consistent with the hypothesis that children tend to gain better cognitive development in kindergarten as children are exposed to active interaction conservations, feedbacks and corrections are given to them so they are able to understand the concept better to avoid future mistakes.

There are some limitations in this experiment. First limitations is generalization of the population, the sample size of this children was taken at one community area and the conclusions are based on the responses of those pre-schoolers children that have yet to have better understanding of the world. Therefore it does not generate enough data to prove that this experiment is reliable. This greatly reduces the external validity of this experiment.

Second limitation is the history effect whereby some children are enrolled in other arithmetic classes that could possibly allow them to score higher than the others and eventually lead them to become outliers in the groups. This is one of the confound variable which this experiment had failed to control. Therefore, further studies are needed to eliminate this variable and including a control group will eliminate this confound.

In conclusion, there are some improvements that need to make for this experiment to have better reliability and usefulness to the population. Researchers who are curious about how children acquire higher level of arithmetic abilities or cognitive development should conduct more studies and analyse how different age groups solve problems or question with increasing difficulty under different learning environments, what are some of the tools that they use to assist them in the process of learning, and last of all, the interaction between gender and learning environment should be further analyse and require further research.



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