WASHINGTON (AP) - New research finds that math skills, even the basic ones needed for everyday life, start early.
Scientists say that what children know about numbers as they begin first grade seems to play a big role in how well they do everyday calculations later on.
It's far more basic than improving math scores and attracting future engineers.
About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lack the math competence expected of a middle-schooler, meaning they have trouble with ordinary tasks and aren't qualified for many of today's jobs.
University of Missouri researchers tested 180 seventh-graders. Those who lagged behind in a test of core math skills needed to function as adults were the same kids who'd had the least number sense or fluency when they started first grade.
Number sense - the basic understanding that numbers represent different quantities - turns out to be a fundamental skill.
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