Latino Kids Start School Three Months Behind in Math


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Findings from a new report shed light on the state of Latino children and the education gap many face as they enter kindergarten.

According to a study entitled “Making Math Count More for Young Latino Children” by Child Trends, Latino students are three months behind in math literacy compared to their white peers. Citing poverty in Latino households as one of the main causes, the study cautions that the education gap would only grow if not addressed immediately in the classroom.

As the Latino population in the U.S. continues to grow – they are already the largest ethnic and racial minority in the country – this problem is going to be critical going forward. One in four U.S. kindergarteners today is Latino and in California and New Mexico, Latino children are already in the majority.

“Integrating math instruction into preschool can help close the equity gap,” said Tina Plaza-Whoriskey, senior communications manager at Child Trends. “To evaluate a program, experiment with different programs to find which produces the best results.”

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Per the study, a child’s abilities in mathematics builds on what they have learned in their early years and are critical to their success in school and crucial to their later economic success.

“Latino children are more than twice as likely as white children to be poor, and much of the variation in Latino children’s math scores can be explained by poverty,” the study said. “Being from a low-income family, having parents with no education beyond high school, and living in a household where English is not the primary language spoken, are all associated with lower math scores for Latino children starting kindergarten.”

To help reverse this negative outcome, Child Trends cites three “promising” programs as possible examples to follow:

  • Building Blocks, a curriculum of activities built around experiences and interests that introduces children to various math disciplines
  • Number Worlds, which focuses on students who are one or more grade levels behind with classroom games and props
  • Tools of the Mind, a program that supports children’s self-regulation

“Students succeed because they can also take classroom activities home to play with their parents,” said Connie Henry, assistant director of the Boston Public Schools’ K12 mathematics program. “Connecting families to what kids are doing in school is an important aspect of learning math.”

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