Talk, Read, Sing: Seven Ways for Parents to Build Early Math Literacy

As seen at TOO SMALL TO FAIL, December 8, 2015.

Publication Date: 
July 6, 2016

Research tells us that exposing children to math early improves their success in school. Talking to young children about numbers helps their brains develop, and may improve their confidence with math later on. So get counting! These ideas will help you spark your child’s math interest while you talk, read and sing!

1. Find opportunities to count everywhere you go.

Count the steps as you and your child are walking up and down the stairs, or the cars passing by. Use your baby’s fingers and toes to count one, two, three, four, five!

2. Ask “how many?”

Ask your child questions like “how many children and adults live in our home?” or “how many silver cars do you see?” These questions encourage children to count and compare things they see every day.

3. Talk about the shapes and sizes of objects all around you.

Describe the shapes of everyday objects: the large table that is a rectangle, or the small, round orange. When your child has mastered these concepts, describe less common shapes: the stop sign is an octagon, the pond is an oval.

4. Sing and clap along together.

One clap for each syllable builds understanding of “one-to-one correspondence,” or the ability to count in sequence. Practicing rhythm and melody also helps children understand patterns.

which shape has the most sides?5. Talk about directions.

Use physical descriptions of the world around you, such as “through,” “next to,” “around” and “behind” to help your child understand where things are in relation to other things.

6. Use comparison words throughout the day.

Is the grapefruit bigger or smaller than the orange? Is my hair longer or shorter than yours? Grouping objects together helps children discriminate between sameness and difference. Sort things by size, color, length, or anything else you can think of together. The list is endless!

7. Talk math in any language.

Math is a universal language, and its concepts are translatable across all languages. Look for ways to talk about math in whatever language you feel comfortable with. Talking math to your child every day builds her brain.

Additional Resources:

•Check out our Q&A with early math expert, Deborah Stipek, on the importance of building early math skills.

•Our partners at Sesame Street have a toolkit showing how math is everywhere around us!