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Vol. LXV, No. 6
March 15, 2013
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Digest

First Grade Math Skills Set Foundation for Later Math Ability

Number system knowledge is the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it and to manipulate quantities and make calculations. For example, the 3 dots shown can be represented by the numeral 3 and that 3 is made up of 2 and 1.
Number system knowledge is the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it and to manipulate quantities and make calculations. For example, the 3 dots shown can be represented by the numeral 3 and that 3 is made up of 2 and 1.

Children who failed to acquire a basic math skill in first grade scored far behind their peers by seventh grade on a test of the mathematical abilities needed to function in adult life, according to researchers supported by NIH.

The basic math skill, number system knowledge, is the ability to relate a quantity to the numerical symbol that represents it, and to manipulate quantities and make calculations. This skill is the basis for all other mathematics abilities, including those necessary for functioning as an adult member of society, a concept called numeracy.

The researchers reported that early efforts to help children overcome difficulty in acquiring number system knowledge could have significant long-term benefits. They noted that more than 20 percent of U.S. adults do not have the eighth grade math skills needed to function in the workplace.

“An early grasp of quantities and numbers appears to be the foundation on which we build more complex understandings of numbers and calculations,” said NICHD’s Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke. “Given the national priority on education in science, technology, engineering and math fields, it is crucial for us to understand how children become adept at math and what interventions can help those who struggle to build these skills.”

The study appeared online in PLoS One.

Scientists Identify Molecular Events that Underlie FASD

Scientists have identified a molecular signaling pathway that plays an important role in the development of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). The new research in cells and mice, supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, points to candidate genes for FASD susceptibility and may open new avenues for developing drugs to prevent alcohol damage to the fetal brain. A report of the study appeared online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disorders in the United States,” said NIAAA acting director Kenneth Warren. “These new findings are yet another important contribution from researchers who have been at the forefront of scientific discovery in FASD.”

Warren noted that FASD can include the distinct pattern of facial features associated with fetal alcohol syndrome as well as intellectual disabilities, speech and language delays and poor social skills.

NIH Study Shows Big Improvement in Diabetes Control

More people are meeting recommended goals in the three key markers of diabetes control, according to a study conducted and funded by NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, published online Feb. 15 in Diabetes Care, shows that, from 1988 to 2010, the number of people with diabetes able to meet or exceed all three of the measures that demonstrate good diabetes management rose from about 2 percent to about 19 percent. Each measure also showed substantial improvement, with over half of people meeting each individual goal in 2010.

The measures are A1C—which assesses blood sugar (glucose) over the previous 3 months—blood pressure and cholesterol. They are often called the ABCs of diabetes. When these measures fall outside healthy ranges, people are more likely to be burdened by complications of diabetes, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness and amputation.

Despite improvement, the results show continued need for better diabetes control. In particular, young people and some minority groups were below average in meeting the goals.


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