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  1. Prior research has shown that the home learning environment (HLE) is critical in the development of spatial skills and that various parental beliefs influence the HLE. However, a comprehensive analysis of the impact of different parental beliefs on the spatial HLE remains lacking, leaving unanswered questions about which specific parental beliefs are most influential and whether inducing a growth mindset can enhance the spatial HLE. To address these gaps, we conducted an online study with parents of 3- to 5-year-olds. We found that parents’ growth mindset about their children’s ability strongly predicted the spatial HLE after controlling for parents’ motivational beliefs about their children, beliefs about their own ability, children’s age, children’s gender, and family SES. Further, reading an article about growth mindset led parents to choose more challenging spatial learning activities for their children. These findings highlight the critical role of parents’ growth mindset in the spatial HLE. Crucially, these findings demonstrate that general growth mindset messages without specific suggestions for parental practices can influence parental behavior intentions. Further, these effects were also observed in the control domain of literacy, underscoring the broad relevance of the growth mindset in the HLE. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. Children’s beliefs about the contribution of effort and ability to success and failure shape their decisions to persist or give up on challenging tasks, with consequences for their academic success. But how do children learn about the concept of “challenge”? Prior work has shown that parents’ verbal responses to success and failure shape children’s motivational beliefs. In this study, we explore another type of talk - parent and child talk about difficulty - which could contribute to children’s motivational beliefs. We performed secondary analyses of two observational studies of parent-child interactions in the United States (Boston and Philadelphia) from age 3 to 4th grade (Study 1, 51% girls, 65.5% White, at least 43.2% below Federal poverty line) and at 1st grade (Study 2, 54% girls, 72% White, family income-to-needs ratio M(SD) = 4.41(2.95)) to identify talk about difficulty, characterize the content of those statements, and assess whether task context, child and parent gender, child age, and other parent motivational talk were associated with quantity of child and parent difficulty talk. We found that many families did discuss difficulty, with variation among families. Parents and children tended to use general statements to talk about difficulty (e.g., “That was hard!”), and task context affected child and parent difficulty talk. In the NICHD-SECCYD dataset, mothers’ highlighting how task features contributed to task difficulty was positively correlated with their process praise, suggesting that this talk could be motivationally relevant. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  3. Verbal labels for math concepts influence multiple aspects of math learning. In this study, we examined the influence of point labels (e.g., .42 as “point four two”), decomposed labels (e.g., “four tenths and two hundredths”), and common-unit labels (e.g., “forty-two hundredths”) on children’s processing and representation of decimal magnitudes. We randomly assigned 162 5th- and 6th-graders to briefly learn decomposed, common-unit, or point labels. Children then completed measures of decimal magnitude processing and representation. We found that the place-value labels (i.e., decomposed and common-unit labels) each showed unique advantages in reducing the whole-number bias, and common-unit labels also reduced componential processing. No difference was found in the ratio effect – which served as an index of the precision of decimal magnitude representation - among children from the three conditions. These findings add to our understanding of the role of verbal labels in math learning and have important implications for instructional practices. 
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  4. Individual differences in children’s number knowledge arise early and are associated with variation in parents’ number talk. However, there exists little experimental evidence of a causal link between parent number talk and children’s number knowledge. Parent number talk was manipulated by creating picture books which parents were asked to read with their children every day for 4 weeks.N = 100 two‐ to four‐year olds and their parents were randomly assigned to read either Small Number (13), Large Number (46), or Control (non‐numerical) books. Small Number books were particularly effective in promoting number knowledge relative to the Control books. However, children who began the study further along in their number development also benefited from reading the Large Number Books with their parents.

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  5. Abstract

    When asked to explain their solutions to a problem, children often gesture and, at times, these gestures convey information that is different from the information conveyed in speech. Children who produce these gesture‐speech “mismatches” on a particular task have been found to profit from instruction on that task. We have recently found that some children produce gesture‐speech mismatches when identifying numbers at the cusp of their knowledge, for example, a child incorrectly labels a set of two objects with the word “three” and simultaneously holds up two fingers. These mismatches differ from previously studied mismatches (where the information conveyed in gesture has the potential to be integrated with the information conveyed in speech) in that the gestured response contradicts the spoken response. Here, we ask whether these contradictory number mismatches predict which learners will profit from number‐word instruction. We used theGive‐a‐Numbertask to measure number knowledge in 47 children (Mage = 4.1 years,SD = 0.58), and used theWhat's on this Cardtask to assess whether children produced gesture‐speech mismatches above their knower level. Children who were early in their number learning trajectories (“one‐knowers” and “two‐knowers”) were then randomly assigned, within knower level, to one of two training conditions: a Counting condition in which children practiced counting objects; or an Enriched Number Talk condition containing counting, labeling set sizes, spatial alignment of neighboring sets, and comparison of these sets. Controlling for counting ability, we found that children were more likely to learn the meaning of new number words in the Enriched Number Talk condition than in the Counting condition, but only if they had produced gesture‐speech mismatches at pretest. The findings suggest that numerical gesture‐speech mismatches are a reliable signal that a child is ready to profit from rich number instruction and provide evidence, for the first time, that cardinal number gestures have a role to play in number‐learning.

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