Tag Archives: study

On Mothers and Math: Behind the Buzz

As someone who has been relatively vocal about research rigor and how findings are interpreted (and sometimes misinterpreted) in the mainstream media, it was certainly interesting for me when a small study I did as a spin-off from my dissertation picked up a bit of buzz a few weeks back. To summarize, in an analysis of number-related language (e.g., “three cats,” “how many apples?”) in everyday speech, American mothers of toddlers (mean age 22 months) spoke two to three times more often about numbers and quantities when talking to boys compared to girls. After reading some of the questions and comments (some quite angry!) about the study, I thought it might be interesting to provide a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at how this paper came to be. I’ve addressed a few issues that directly deal with gender stereotyping – and why the study did not include fathers – in a previous Q&A with Mommyish.com, so I will try my best to not be repetitive.

I was originally studying differences between Mandarin Chinese and English speaking parents, how they talk to children about number before they enter formal schooling, and how this might contribute to the well-documented cross-national differences in math scores between Mandarin speaking countries (China, Singapore, Taiwan) and their English speaking counterparts (including the United States). I never failed to get at least one question about gender differences each time I presented the data. Since my research was actually about language and concept development, it took awhile after sorting the initial study out before I took the time to carefully look at what was happening between genders.

I needed to make sure that the age of the children and the amount of overall speech generally matched between boys and girls (i.e., I controlled for age and amount of speech) in order to compare between roughly equivalent groups of mother-son and mother-daughter pairs. The fact that only mothers were left after this matching process was purely circumstantial, not intentional. (However, at least one study has found that fathers show a greater bias toward boys than mothers when explaining science museum exhibits). My colleagues and I were both shocked and fascinated to find significant differences in number speech to boys and girls… but only in the American group. Over the next two years (that’s right, years), this paper was written and revised countless times. However, it was rejected no fewer than seven times from as many journals before finally being accepted and published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

This is just one example of the stark difference in pace between academia and Silicon Valley. Between authors, reviewers, and editors, iterating on a manuscript can take months, if not years, for a variety of reasons. A lot of stress can result from a sometimes incredibly long peer review process. More than once have I wondered if a reviewer actually read my manuscript, and have become incredibly frustrated when reviews that don’t seem particularly negative result in a rejection for an unclear reason. Despite all of the challenges, I firmly believe in peer review as a tenet of the scientific process. I feel that it is important for articles that go down as scientific record to be reviewed by individuals with domain expertise. In addition, my co-authors and I knew that we had an important, compelling result, and knew that the only way that it would ever have any impact in the world (even just to us in our own careers!) would be to get it published in a peer-reviewed journal. And we finally succeeded… on the eighth try.

The amount of time it takes to design, run, analyze, implement, and then publish a research study is one of the reasons why there isn’t a lot of “hard evidence” about some of the current learning technologies Silicon Valley is buzzing about. Pilot results are one thing, but full randomized controlled trials are a whole different beast. Building a bridge between rigorous scientific research and development of technology is something that I feel is incredibly important, but has quite a ways to go. It is my hope that in this next phase of my career, I can make a contribution in this area, and perhaps even inspire more girls and women to pursue STEM!

References

Chang, A., Sandhofer, C.M., & Brown, C.S. (2011). Gender Biases in Early Number Exposure to Preschool-Aged Children. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 30(4), 440-450.

Crowley, K., Callanan, M. A., Tenenbaum, H. R., & Allen, E. (2001). Parents explain more often to boys than girls during shared scientific thinking. Psychological Science, 12, 258-261.

Picture by kakisky

CROSSREF:ED Audio Podcast

CROSSREF:ED #01 Why it’s better to do Homework late at Night (Audio)

CROSSREF:ED Audio Podcast

CROSSREF:ED Episode #01

Why it’s better to do Homework late at Night

  • recorded: April 5th 2012
Download Episode Download Episode Audio
AcademicPub - Your Book Your Way This Interview is sponsored by AcademicPub – Your Book Your Way
AcademicPub allows you to take content from their copyright cleared library of over 125 publishers, your files or anything on the web, and create custom course packs that are perfect, for you.
Visit them today at academicpub.com and follow @AcademicPub on Twitter.

In our first episode let’s take a look at a very classic topic in education: homework. And is it good or bad? Christopher dedicated his last episode of C12 here on EDUKWEST to homework, I gave a long rant on “the French Homework revolution” in last week’s episode of review:ed. So why not start crossref:ed with two articles related to homework, as well?

Read More

Play

Why it’s better to do Homework late at Night

Welcome to our new show crossref:ed, a short podcast in which we take two articles or blog posts that cover a certain topic and either validate or invalidate each other. We are planning to release at least one episode per week, depending on what articles we find, of course.


Before we start, let me quickly thank our sponsor for this week: AcademicPub allows you to take content from their copyright cleared library of over 125 publishers, your files or anything on the web, and create custom course packs that are perfect, for you. Visit them at academicpub.com and follow them on Twitter @AcademicPub. We thank them for their support of crossref:ed.


In our first episode let’s take a look at a very classic topic in education: homework. And is it good or bad? Christopher dedicated his last episode of C12 here on EDUKWEST to homework, I gave a long rant on “the French Homework revolution” in last week’s episode of review:ed. So why not start crossref:ed with two articles related to homework, as well?

Download Episode Download Episode Video Download Episode Audio

The Guardian published a piece with the title “Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results”. It is based on a study published by the Department of Education in the UK. Over 15 years the study has tracked the performance of 3000 students with the result that

“Spending more than two hours a night doing homework is linked to achieving better results in English, maths and science”

As a side note: A previous research referenced in the article found only modest links of homework related to achievement in secondary school, though. But that is not the second crossref:ed article I would like to talk about today.

The new study also controlled for social class, the environment where the homework takes place in and whether students generally enjoy going to school. All those factors seem to have played a role as well.

What I found interesting was the time the homework is done. It is not explicitly mentioned in the text but as the headline lets us assume, most homework is done in the evening or at night. And here comes our second article into play.

According to an article in Scientific American the “Ability to Learn Is Affected by the Timing of Sleep”. The sooner we go to sleep after we learned something, the better we retain that new information.

“In the 24-hour retest—where all subjects had a full night of sleep—those participants who went to bed shortly after learning the words did much better than those who went through an entire day before sleeping. And this leg up in memory was maintained on subsequent days.”

This basically means that if the students in the study did their homework before they went to sleep or at least pretty close to that time the actual amount of hours put in the homework might not necessarily explain the better performance.

If the study mentioned in Scientific American is right then it is all about when to do the homework, not for how long which would be a great basis for an experiment. Maybe I’ll try it out with learning Spanish at night.

Show Notes

  • Two hours’ homework a night linked to better school results
    Source: The Guardian
  • Ability to Learn Is Affected by the Timing of Sleep
    Source: Scientific American

Picture by cynwulf

PlayPlay
Babbel Survey

On the Importance of Authentic Data in Combination with Professional Research

The positive effect of releasing data of surveys done amongst their users becomes increasingly clear to startups. Not only tells it more what learners think but the release of data is what people are longing for and so it’s also good marketing.

Language learning startup babbel recently published a study with findings on how some of their users learn. 1774 learners participated in the survey which took place on their blog over several. The students were all speakers of one of the following languages: English, German, French, Spanish or Italian.

Continue reading