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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Welsh-speakers 'better at maths'
School pupil
The Welsh language eased comprehension of numbers
Welsh-speaking children are better at mathematics than their English-speaking counterparts, according to scientists from Oxford University.

Pupils who speak Welsh can understand numbers and complete maths tests more easily because of the way the numbers are named in the language.

Although similar in other respects, the Welsh speaking-children did better in some mathematical tests

Dr Ann Dowker, Oxford University
Dr Ann Dowker and Delyth Lloyd of the university told the British Psychological Society Developmental and Education Sections' Conference Welsh-speakers performed better at maths tests.

They told the conference in Worcester that the helpful Welsh number construction was similar to that of Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

Primary pupils

The pair studied six and eight year olds at primary schools in south Wales.

The study focused on pupils from a Welsh-medium school, whose first language was either Welsh or English, and on a group which spoke English at both home and school.

Dr Dowker said: "They found it easier to read and compare two-digit numbers, indicating a better understanding of place value.

Welsh numbers share characteristics with Japanese
"While 10, 20 and 30 in English tell us little about their relative value, the Welsh names do.

"Deg, dau ddeg and tri deg indicate 10, two-10 and three-10 in the same way that tri deg dau (three-10-two, 32) and un deg tri (one-10-three, 13) explain their values through their names.

"To learn the names of numbers in Welsh, you have to learn the numbers for one to 10 and the rules for combining them."

The pair of academics said the task of number construction is more complex in English.

But they stressed language is just one factor influencing in maths ability in different cultures.

Their study said, however, that children build on their early understandings.

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