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Scholastic Parents: The Learning Toolkit

Build essential math skills by putting math and "math talk" into everyday routines wherever and whenever you can from the time your kids are small.
on March 15, 2013

Since my boys were small, I’ve tried to include math concepts and math language into our everyday conversations, play and routines. I am not a math wizard by any means but I am aware of how much understanding math affects one’s ability to function everyday – and we all know it is a critical skill kids need to succeed in school and in life. So, I’ve tried to integrate thinking and talking about numbers, geometry, measurements, money and a myriad of other math concepts into our family life on a regular basis.

When they were very small, we started simple. We counted aloud the number of stairs we climbed together. We counted the number of apples we put in the grocery bag. We played “I SPY the number…”when we went on walks through the neighborhood and looked for numbers in street addresses and on street signs to reinforce number recognition. We cooked together filling teaspoons, tablespoons and measuring cups (we still do!).  I filled bath-time with lots of different sized objects to fill and pour – comparing what object holds more or less water. And, we played sorting and pattern games, put puzzles galore together and spent hours building and designing things together with building blocks, cardboard, foam shapes and craft materials.  All of these activities, however seemingly simple or routine, build your child’s early understanding and relationship with math concepts.

Starting simple conversations or initiating play activities that include math concepts might include asking questions or making statements like:

1. How much do you think these apples weigh?  Let’s weigh them together.
2. Which of these two containers do you think will fit more of the pasta noodles in it?
3. I love all of the different shapes in that painting / picture. Can you help me find all of the circles? Rectangles? Squares? Etc .
4. Your drawing has beautiful symmetry to it – both sides of the vase you drew are a perfect reflection of each other.
5. Let’s divide up the cookies so each of us gets an equal amount. Can you help me?
6. Who is taller – you or your brother? Let’s measure.
7. How many Legos do we need to put together to build a tower as tall as you? As me?
8. Can you help me count the pennies in our penny jar? Let’s put them into groups of 10 together.
9. How many more goldfish crackers do you have than me?
10. Let’s count how many red and blue cars we pass while driving? How many are blue? How many are red? What color had more cars on the road while we drove?

This isn’t an exhaustive list of ways you can get kids to use their mathematical thinking skills – but by mixing in some math talk and math thinking every day, you’ll build math confidence and skills that will last a lifetime.

Check out these other resources below that support building essential math skills and an understanding of math in everyday life.