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Parents See Math as Important to Children's Success, Poll Finds

More parents believe their children will be successful in life through "being good at math" than "being outgoing," according to new survey data, but it wasn't a landslide.

In all, 53 percent chose math skills, compared with 42 percent who picked social skills. And 5 percent who must have kids with some serious athletic prowess believe being good at sports is the most important of the three choices to future success.

However, parental priorities seem to shift when it comes to how their children should spend free time. When asked about this, the top choice was sports and exercise activities (46 percent). Next was creative and artistic activities (25 percent) followed by academic and intellectual activities at 18 percent (such as math and science pursuits, chess, or Lego clubs).

In last place at 11 percent—a little sad to me—was to "have free time without scheduled activities."

The survey of 1,000 parents with children ages 6-15 was conducted in September by Koski Research. It was commissioned for aerospace and defense giant Raytheon Company, which earlier this year sponsored another survey to gauge the attitudes of middle-school students on math and other subjects. For a number of years now, Raytheon has been supporting efforts to improve STEM education.

Asked about their ability to help their children with math, a full one-third of parents said they are unable to do so. And this figure climbs to an alarming 43 percent for moms (compared with 25 percent of dads). However, while some attributed this to their own lack of math skills, a more common answer for both moms and dads was that the "instructions and problems are different from what I learned in school."

Here are a few other findings from the survey:

• Most parents believe their children love school (86 percent) and love math (72 percent);
• This perceived love of math declines from 77 percent in grades 1-5 to 67 percent in grades 6-9. (Sadly, we probably don't need a survey to know this.)
• Most parents would prefer to help their children with math homework (65 percent) than coach or help their children with a sports activity (35 percent).

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