Chinese mothers’ and fathers’ involvement in children’s mathematics: Examining the frequency and process of parent–child mathematics activities

Qi HUANG, Jin SUN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers

Abstract

It is well acknowledged that parent–child mathematical activities support children’s mathematics learning. However, the past studies have shown some limitations, including mainly focusing on mothers’ engagement, adopting only one type of mathematics activities, lacking a comprehensive examination by taking both the participation frequency and process characteristics into consideration, and ignoring the role of child in the dyadic interactive activities. All these limitations make it difficult to have a comprehensive understanding on how parent–child interactive mathematics activities are associated with children’s mathematics achievement. Against this background, the current study examined the characteristics of parental involvement (i.e., participation frequency and parental scaffolding) and child initiative in three types of mother–child and father–child mathematical activities (i.e., academic worksheet, play-based game, and reality-based application activities). We hypothesized that participation frequency, parental scaffolding, and child initiative in parent–child mathematical activities varied across different partners (i.e., mothers with children versus fathers with children) and types of activities. Participation frequency and parental scaffolding were further expected to have both direct and indirect relationships with children’s mathematics achievement, mediated by children’s initiative.

Ninety-six Chinese preschoolers (M = 71.46 months, SD = 4.29 months, 47 girls) participated in this study with their mothers and fathers. Mothers and fathers completed a worksheet, a game, and an application activity with their children, separately. The processes of mother–child and father–child interactions were video-recorded for in-depth observational analyses. Mothers and fathers also reported their frequencies of participating in different mathematical activities with their children at home independently. Children’s mathematics performance was assessed individually using the Test of Early Mathematics Ability–Third Edition. Parent’s scaffolding behaviors were coded in terms of cognitive, emotional, and autonomy support in each parent–child dyadic interactive activity. Occurrences of children’s self-starting, metacognition, and persistent behavior were coded as index of children’s initiative in parent–child activities.

Results showed that mothers were involved in worksheet-based activities more frequently than fathers. Mothers also provided more scaffolding behaviors compared to fathers in parent–child interactions, while children showed more initiatives when interacting with their fathers than with mothers. Furthermore, path analyses revealed that participation frequency and parental scaffolding were differently associated with children’s mathematics achievement across three types of parent–child mathematical activities (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). Moreover, mothers’ participation frequency and scaffolding had indirect positive relationships with children’s mathematics performance, mediated by child initiative in worksheet-based and application-based activities. By contrast, fathers’ participation frequency and scaffolding were indirectly and positively related to children’s mathematics performance, mediated by children’s initiative across all three types of father–child mathematical activities.

This study extends the literature on the unique roles of participation frequency, parental scaffolding, and child initiative in children’s mathematics learning with a sample of two-parent Chinese families. It also enriches the evidence on the importance of mothers’ and fathers’ involvement in different types of mathematical activities. The findings of this study offer implications for improving the quality of parenting and the design of inspiring programs involving parent–child activities. Copyright © 2021 SRCD.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Citation

Huang, Q., & Sun, J. (2021, April). Chinese mothers’ and fathers’ involvement in children’s mathematics: Examining the frequency and process of parent–child mathematics activities. Paper presented at the Society of Research in Child Development (SRCD 2021) Biennial Meeting, USA.

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